Coach Vincent Ntunja with the African Grassroot Hoops girls’ basketball team at the Gugulethu Sport Complex during practice. Picture: Phando Jikelo/ANA
A group of 12 teenage basketball players will soon fly to Washington, DC. None has ever set foot on a plane and now they are travelling to the US, “the home of basketball”, as one of the girls put it.

The excited girls from Gugulethu, Langa, Hout Bay, Nyanga, Mitchells Plain, Heideveld and Philippi will be part of a 10-day basketball and leadership programme in the US capital.

The programme, African Grassroot Hoops, a non-profit organisation which uses basketball to get children off the streets, in partnership with the US consulate, will run between October 9 and 19.

The girls will go to sports clinics and workshops and meet their American peers at school and sports.

Yolisa Sokoyi, 14, has been playing basketball since she was in Grade 3. The Nyanga teen told Weekend Argus she “fell in love with the game from day one”. Yolisa said: I am so proud of myself I can’t even begin to describe it.”

Their coach, former national basketball player Vincent Ntunja, says: “These girls have never been on a plane before and this will be a life-changing experience for them.”

The girls “were selected for their dedication and potential in their sport and academic aspirations”.

Siyamthanda Somtsewu, 16, from Langa, an aspirant psychologist or neurologist, has only been playing basketball for a year.

“I still can’t believe that I have been chosen for this phenomenal opportunity.”

Cape Town High School pupil Sibongile Ngalo, 17, said she not only played the sport to stay off the streets, but saw it as “a door opener for me, and something that teaches you so much about life”.

Sibongile hopes to study social work at university so she can help others.

Weekend Argus

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