Paarl basketball players turn their dreams into reality and sign with US team
Cape Town - Two men from Paarl in the Western Cape have every reason to smile as they make their way to the United States after signing with a professional basketball team.
Nabihl Liebenberg, 21, from Chicago, Paarl, and Roderick Fredericks, 26, from Groenheuwel are just months away from achieving their dream.
The pair have been signed by the Purple Jags team based in Victoria, Texas, and will also be attending the University of Houston–Victoria.
Currently, the duo play for Paarl Spartans Basketball Club, but it has not always been that way.
Speaking to the African News Agency (ANA), Fredericks said they used to be rivals.
“I have been playing for the team now for seven years. Nabihl and I used to be rivals but he and another friend nagged me to join the team. It was the best decision I ever made because of the love, support and absolute brotherhood the team offers,” he said.
Fredericks has been playing basketball since 2006 after his cousin died.
He said she used to be the basketball player of the family and before she died he promised her and himself that he would take the sport to the next level.
“Basketball is my life. It is my safe haven and release. It is more than just a sport to me, it's a chance to get out of my current circumstances.
“In my community, gangsterism is taking over. Every day random gunfire can be heard. It’s really hard to motivate the youth as many of them are caught up in gangsterism,” Fredericks told ANA.
He said that while he despises gangsterism, he is trying his utmost to inspire the youth and hosts a programme where he teaches them the basics of basketball as well as life skills.
Fredericks said he just wants the youth to know that anything is possible and working hard towards something is possible. It doesn’t have to be only sports, but academia as well.
He said he was spotted by the Purple Jags via Liebenberg’s video posts.
“The Jags saw me in a video Nabihl had sent them. They asked him who I was, he tagged me on the social media post.
“They reached out and asked for me to send them videos. They asked if I would be willing to join the Men’s 361 Basketball Association (M3BA). I said yes, and that’s how the process started,” Fredericks said.
The pair are set to depart in July. They will have to get vaccinated against Covid-19, and while there is still a ban on international travel to the US, their new team is trying their best to get them there soonest.
“I am ecstatic about this new adventure, but I think my parents are more excited than I am. I can’t wait to get there and make my dream a reality and make a change in my community, maybe even in our country.
“Ten percent of my work has been done, now 90% is up to me and how hard I work,” Fredericks added.
Liebenberg, who has been playing basketball since the age of 10, told ANA he became infatuated with the sport as it requires a lot of leadership and he has always been a leader.
He dabbled in cricket and rugby but realised he could make a difference and help grow the game further.
“Basketball is not an easy game. One has to put in the work and have a great work ethic to be a basketball player.
“I am so excited about this opportunity and really looking forward to this,” Liebenberg said.
However, he will not be sitting by idly watching.
“I have been offered to attend a training clinic in Spain at the end of this month (April) by a team in the ACB league. They also play in the Eurocup,” Liebenberg told ANA.
The Liga ACB, known as Liga Endesa for sponsorship reasons, is the top professional basketball division of the Spanish basketball league system.
Liebenberg has also played in the South African Basketball National League (BNL).
The BNL is a pre-eminent men’s professional basketball league which was founded in 1993 as the Premier Basketball League but was disbanded in 1996. However, it was reformed and in 2013 was named the BNL.
“I am the first pupil from my high school and the third and youngest person from Paarl to play in the BNL.
“I am so grateful for it all and I strive to create opportunities for other players to travel and explore,” Liebenberg told ANA.
He said while he knows everyone has a vision and a dream, putting everything aside and focusing on their goals would yield rewards.
“It is not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. Believe in yourself, believe in God and anything is possible. Once you master the path of believing in yourself nothing else matters and your focus remains on your goals,” Liebenberg added.
African News Agency (ANA)