Team Lesotho must deliver
National Basketball association (NBA) star, Festus EzeliNdulue, arrived in the country on Monday this week and proceeded to hold coaching clinics at lehakoe Club.
the Nigerian — a star with american NBA team Golden State Warriors — also shared his journey to the top of the world’s greatest professional basketball league with youngsters who lapped on his every word and followed his every move during what is arguably lesotho basketball’s finest moment.
Ezeli-ndulue (25) told the young players and invited guests that he left Nigeria in 2004 knowing nothing about the basketball — only for his passion to develop upon his arrival in the United States (US) where his parents had sent him to live with his uncle soon after completing his high school education. the clock is slowly ticking towards the all-africa Games set for Congo-brazzaville from 4-19 September and expectations are very high that team-lesotho would do our country proud.
From a distance, the team looks very balanced and competitive because it is a group of young and experienced athletes who have done well in different competitions in recent years.
the fact that the lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission has also come out saying government has set aside over M4 million for the team’s preparations and participation means our athletes should go all-out to justify why the country should continue to invest such big monies in sport.
head-of-delegation Mme Moipone Mashale is brimming with confidence as the team fine-tunes preparations for the Games and that, for me, is a good sign because if the leader is upbeat, then this optimism passes on to the rest of the squad.
We have not done that well in major sporting events such as the all-africa, Commonwealth and olympic Games and i hope the situation will be different this time around.
But with big names in the team such as 100 and 200 metre specialist Mosito lehata, i believe our fortunes, as a country, are going to change in the Congo Republic.
“i left this continent for better opportunities; it was hard at the beginning, but studying in the US opened opportunities for me through basketball,” Ezeli-ndulue said.
“i managed to study at college, so i will have something to fall back on at the end of my basketball career, which is why it is important to tell youngsters about the importance of academic studies. Combining sport with education is very important.”
Ezeli-ndulue said he was happy
lehata was lesotho’s shining star at last year’s Commonwealth Games held in Scotland and i hope he takes that splendid form, which saw him narrowly miss on a 100metre bronze in Scotland due to injury, to the central African nation next month.
While lehata is yet to win a major race since recovering from injury sustained at the very same Glasgow Games last year, he remains the country’s best hope when it comes to athletics and I am confident he will live-up to expectations and help Lesotho do well in Brazzaville.
one good thing about lehata is he has a big heart and is never happy to be secondbest, hence my optimism that he will make us to be in africa and also feature in the NBA’S first exhibition game at Ellis Park, Johannesburg last Saturday. Ezeli-ndulue played for team africa against team World, with the former losing 97-101 before a roaring and spilling Ellis Park arena.
“this trip made sense to me; i needed to come here and celebrate my success with my people,” said Ezeli-ndulue.
“My biggest reason for coming here is not about playing basket- proud in Brazzaville.
Apart from Lehata, there is also boxer Moroke Mokhotho, who has also shown a lot of promise over the last two years.
the 24-year-old was among a few of our athletes who managed to taste victory at the Glasgow Games although he was later beaten in the quarter-finals. However, I’m sure he will go beyond the quarter-finals at the continental showcase, also considering his experience at this competition. Mokhotho won a bronze medal at the last edition of the fouryearly tournament in Mozambique in 2011 and gets yet another platform to showcase his talent.
our taekwondo team has also given us hope over recent weeks, winning 25 medals in South africa against athletes from other southern african countries.
Mokulubete Makatisi is yet another athlete who has been tipped for greatness by his peers.
the 20-year-old runner already has a number of accolades under her belt, including a gold medal at last year’s african Union Sports Council Region Five Games held in Zimbabwe and i’m sure she will also be an athlete to watch in the Congo as far as our country is concerned.
lesotho has always done well when it comes to boxing, taekwondo and athletics, so I’m confident the same standards will be maintained in Brazzaville or even get better. ball but to share my road with the youth of this continent; to tell the kids that i’m like them, i’m an african son.
“i came here to inspire the youngsters and tell them that they can achieve what i have achieved.”
Ezeli-ndulue said basketballhopefuls should always work hard to achieve their dreams.
“Right from the start, my parents would tell me there was nothing i could not do if i really worked hard. i was told i could not make it when I first started playing basketball in the US, but at the end, i was the only one from my high school who graduated to collegebasketball.”
Meanwhile, Econet telecom lesotho Retail Manager, Maphunye Putsoa — whose company sponsored Ezeli-ndulue’s two-day trip to lesotho — said the reason for bringing-in the NBA star was to inspire the youths through sport.
“We are excited to be here today with someone of Festus’ calibre. Econet telecom lesotho’s tagline says ‘ inspire to change the world’ and that’s what we are doing today — we are changing lesotho as far as basketball is concerned,” said Putsoa.
“the beauty about sport is that it transcends all barriers; it transcends barriers of gender, race, you name it. We may not speak the same language but sport unites us.
“We are here to celebrate with basketball-lovers and young basketball-players as Econet has decided to do a first for this country by bringing a star who plays in the biggest basketball league in the world.
“like i have mentioned, all we want is for the youth to dream bigger and achieve the highest level that is there to be achieved. We want them to dream big and grow beyond lesotho or africa the way Festus has done.”
Sekhoane Moshabesha, who spoke on behalf of the lesotho Basketball association (lba) during Monday’s session, expressed gratitude to Econet for bringing the NBA icon to the Mountain Kingdom.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Econet for this historic day. You have inspired kids to be champions with what you have done today. the lba will never forget this day and we hope it’s the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between our two organisations,” said the lba vicepresident.
Meanwhile, Putsoa noted the LBA would benefit by having basketball equipment valued at over M40 000 that was bought for
NBA star Festus Ezeli-ndulue (left) holding one of the coaching clinics at Lehakoe Club on Monday.