Sean Van Staden
Columnist
3 minute read
21 Jun 2014
10:00 am

Three steps needed to grow SA basketball

Sean Van Staden

After a few hiccups and a just under two-month delay, the Basketball National League (BNL) finally kicked off last week with a bang. Minister Fikile Mbalula was there to greet players and officials opening the professional league.

Sean van Staden

I have been following the games on SuperSport Select channel 210 and from what I have seen, I am not impressed with the level of quality. I flick a channel to the NBA or even Euro basketball and I see a whole different level of professionalism.

French coach Franck Belen, who is here to help out our national wheelchair basketball teams and establish the first women’s wheelchair national team, describes South African basketball as driving a car with one speed. What does Franck, who just so happens to be an able-bodied professional coach in Europe, and has coached at the highest level, mean by this? Well, typically basketball should be played at different tempos and with a lot of strategy. If the offensive team is smart enough, clever strategy will lure the defence into exactly what you want them to do.

So it begs the question, when will the BNL be good enough to attract the big sponsors? More importantly, what will it take to get the BNL to a level at which we can at least compete with Africa?

Structure: It is now the duty of Basketball South Africa (BSA) to do some work and implement structures from the top down. There needs to be a mandate for schools, clubs and provinces to set up a system which will help nurture young talent.

District, provincial and national structures need to be implemented to provide a platform to showcase these young talented players. All these structures will have a funnel effect in giving the BNL the best players the country has to offer.

Level of Competence: One thing I know about “ballers” both past and present is that they are some of the most passionate and giving people. In a sport where there is little or no money, players, coaches, referees have been soldiering on and giving back to the communities for years.

As passionate as these people are, it is time to equip them with the tools for them to become great ambassadors for basketball. The secret lies in making sure the BNL and BSA enforce that in order to be a part of official bodies in any matter, that you have the correct Fiba level qualifications. This extends to all coaches, referees and admin officials.

Technology: In order to improve a company’s performance, you sometimes need a team of forensic auditors to go where most men fear to tread.

BNL general manager Dali Dzingwa, who is no stranger to hard work or scared of long 14-hour days, understands this all too well. He has been looking for ways to improve the BNL each year in one way by the use of team video and forensic analysis.

An example of this technology would be, let’s say the coach wants the team to press with fast breaks every time they get the ball, what if they knew post-match that of their 18 attempts per quarter of fast break ended up on only a 30% conversion rate? This would mean that every time they performed a fast break they would score one basket for every five attempts.

Now imagine knowing the strategy which allows your team to score the most points and why. On the reverse side, imagine knowing your opponents’ weakness before they even know it. Technology has become a big factor in sport and by knowing, teams can improve and push the level of competition to new heights.

Patience is the key in incubating a new organisation and I trust the league is in good hands and it can only get better, one strategy at a time.

If you have no plans for the weekend, get down to Wembley Stadium, south of Johannesburg, pick a team to follow and enjoy what the league has to offer.