Johannesburg — Royal Bafokeng Sports and NBA Africa celebrated the launch of the 2022 Royal Bafokeng Jr. NBA season with basketball clinics and gala dinner in Phokeng, North West this weekend.
The celebrations tipped off at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Friday afternoon with more than 500 boys and girls from the programme participating in skills stations and exhibition games under the guidance of Royal Bafokeng and NBA Africa coaches, and 2011 NBA Champion, Ian Mahinmi.
Last time Mahinmi visited South Africa was in 2018 when he took part in the third NBA Africa Game held at Sun Arena at Time Square in Pretoria. It was his first visit to the programme and he spoke extensively about the role that sports can play in a young person’s life.
“The game of basketball, and sports in general, teach you such strong values. There are things that you do at a young age through sports that you have no idea are going to impact you later in life, but they are. All these values that you’re going to learn through sports can take you so much further,” said Mahinmi.
The celebrations moved to the Royal Marang Hotel on Friday night where the stakeholders hosted a youth summit focused on youth leadership and women empowerment as part of the 2022 basketball season launch gala dinner. Some of the attendees and participants in the event also included Princess Motswana Molotlegi; Royal Bafokeng Administration Group COO, Dr. Kebalepile Mokgethi; Royal Bafokeng Sports Chairman, Cliff Ramoroa; former Royal Bafokeng Sports Council Deputy Chair, George Khunou; NBA Africa CEO, Victor Williams; South African Women and Sport Foundation Founder, Ntambi Ravele; Ditsogo Projects Founder, Tebogo Mosito; and 54TwentyFour Founder and Director, Julia Makhubela.
George Khunou recalled the humble beginnings of the 12-year old partnership, from boys and girls taking their first steps in learning the game in 2011 to the Jr. NBA programme’s growth, making basketball a leading sport in the Bafokeng community. “Today basketball has overtaken all other sporting codes… The events and the number of kids who have joined (the programme), it’s amazing.”
“The partnership between the Royal Bafokeng Nation and the NBA is one of the strongest partnerships that we have on the continent,” said Williams.
“It was terrific to see the numbers of girls in the program and I want to commend the entire Nation for supporting girls’ participation in sports and athletics. And it was terrific to see the support that we have from parents, many of whom were there at the stadium watching the kids and observing what was going on. This programme in those elements is leading in terms of the programmes that we run on the continent and I think our vision is for every programme that we do to eventually reach the level that we’ve reached here.”
“I am proud of everybody who went through the programme. We have had guys who went to college and finished, and now they are the ones running the programme day-to-day, and we are very proud of that,” said NBA Africa Head of Basketball Operations, Franck Traore.
The evening concluded on Saturday morning on the pitch of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium where more than 2,000 boys and girls took part in fitness and life skills sessions.
The Royal Bafokeng Jr. NBA Programme is the league’s largest Jr. NBA programme in Africa and has achieved a number of milestones since its launch in 2011. More than 120 youth and 15 coaches from the programme have represented the North West Province in national tournaments.
Six girls and two boys went on to represent South Africa in international tournaments at the youth and senior levels, and two girls and two coaches participated in the Jr. NBA Global Championships in Orlando, Florida, in 2018 and 2019.
In addition, more than 100 former participants have gone on to study at universities and colleges in South Africa, with two alumni receiving full scholarships to high schools and universities in the United States.