A Cape Town basketball team’s vision to dominate the basketball league in Africa has manifested and will see the Cape Town Tigers head to China.
The Cape Town Tigers, a basketball team that has garnered much support around the Cape, began in 2020 just before the pandemic reached South Africa.
The team’s CEO, Raphael Edwards, a basketball trainer originally from Brooklyn, US, who has worked with some basketball greats, came to Cape Town in early 2020 to get started training and picking out the team, but Covid-19 hit, causing a brief delay to the plans.
“The vision behind the Cape Town Tigers was to dominate the Basketball Africa League (BAL) and create a global brand, a household name like the Lakers, Yankees and PSG. We’ve become so popular and this I believe to be because of our style of play, flare of a bunch, grassroots marketing and honestly, the people in the organisation. The people from top to bottom that help us operate. I believe our hard work and passion shine through and that’s something that resonates with the world,” he said.
Edwards said one of the challenges was South African politics over basketball.
“I believe in the past that’s what stunted its growth, but as of today it’s got much better.
“I wouldn’t say basketball doesn’t receive the attention deserved. I think while there are tons of basketball fans in South Africa, the powers that be are still only soccer and rugby fans so they don’t see the value of it. Since the Cape Town Tigers have been there I believe it’s starting to open people's eyes more and more. Basketball is extremely different from the other two sports being that it’s a lifestyle. Our fan base has been growing organically and the basketball community will reap the benefits soon,” he said.
Raphael said the biggest achievement of the Tigers was winning two-back-to-back national championships of their first two seasons of existence. He said they had received an invitation to China and will be playing in early August against prominent teams.
“The invitation to China came about through a phone call from an agency that wanted to work with us and book these types of games abroad. They said they've been contacted a lot by teams in other countries that would like us to come play and that this would be the first of many. So we’re invited to the Xiamen pro international basketball tournament.
“We fly out on August 2 and our first game is on the 7th. We play until the 16th. We're extremely excited about this opportunity, and can't wait to represent ourselves, our leagues, the BNL and the BAL and represent our country,” he said.
Pieter Prinsloo, the captain of the Tigers, said there was a great amount of excitement surrounding the China tour.
“We are excited about the high level of basketball that will be played during the time we spend there. We are also excited for the opportunity to not only play high-level talented clubs, but do so in China, where the fan base for the sport is incredible and plenty of potential opportunities for guys to further their careers,” he said.
Prinsloo said losing in the quarter-finals for a second straight year in BAL was a low-light for the team, but said the team had come a long way and transformed positively since its inception.
“Seeing how far the team has developed since we first started after the pandemic, and realising how much we’ve accomplished so far in the time we’ve been together has been amazing,” he said.
Coach Floss Ngwenya said: “I’m very excited about going to compete in China, it is a great opportunity for our team to be considered for such an elite tournament. We have the Basketball National League playoffs in the next two weeks or so, we are looking forward to that here at home. We are a very confident bunch; we have very good players who are extremely competitive and we will be well prepared.
“We train four times a week, we break down our sessions from skills training to team training, working on our team defence, team offensive sets, team shooting and of course weight training as well. My highlight was when the team won the BAL qualifying round at home in Johannesburg, in front of a home crowd. My lowlight is when we got knocked-out in Kigali in the BAL quarter finals, due to four of our import players being injured,” he said.