LO­CAL NBA FANS IN FOR A TREAT

CityPress - - News - SIL­VER SIBIYA sil­ver.sibiya@city­press.co.za

Utah Jazz defender Thabo Se­folosha will rep­re­sent Team Africa against Team World in the highly an­tic­i­pated Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA) Africa Game 2017 on Satur­day.

The bas­ket­ball game will take place at the 20 000-seater Tick­et­pro Dome in Johannesburg.

The match fol­lows the suc­cess of the first NBA match on African soil in 2015 at a sold-out El­lis Park Arena in Johannesburg.

Se­folosha is not only a great de­fen­sive cen­tre, he is also a donor to sev­eral com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives in the US as well as in South Africa. An 11-year NBA vet­eran, Se­folosha fell in love with bas­ket­ball at the age of 11 while liv­ing in Vevey, Switzer­land.

He played in Switzer­land and France be­fore be­ing drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2006. In ad­di­tion to play­ing for the Bulls, he also played for Ok­la­homa City Thun­der, with whom he reached the 2012 NBA fi­nals. He also played for the At­lanta Hawks, who made it to the first round this year, but were de­feated by the Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards.

Se­folosha is an am­bas­sador for Im­bewu, an af­ter­school pro­gramme in South Africa that hosts a yearly bas­ket­ball camp in Switzer­land.

“Bas­ket­ball is grow­ing in South Africa. The first time I came over [14 years ago], we were just look­ing for play­ers and leagues, and there was noth­ing go­ing on. To see NBA tele­vised and real tour­na­ments staged, it feels like bas­ket­ball is on the map,” Se­folosha told City Press four years ago.

Se­folosha is the son of South African singer Pa­trick, who es­caped apartheid-era hor­ror by em­i­grat­ing to Switzer­land with his Swiss wife, Christine.

The player sees his South African fam­ily of three un­cles, seven aunts and a num­ber of cousins in Mamelodi when­ever he vis­its the coun­try.

The 33-year-old first came to South Africa when he was 17 and im­me­di­ately felt con­nected to them.

“I’ve al­ways had a con­nec­tion with South Africa. We grew up lis­ten­ing to South African mu­sic, and hav­ing peo­ple from here com­ing to stay with us and talk­ing about what was hap­pen­ing.”

Known as one of the league’s best perime­ter de­fend­ers, Se­folosha ap­peared in 62 games (42 starts) for the At­lanta Hawks this past sea­son, av­er­ag­ing 7.2 points, 4.4 re­bounds, 1.7 as­sists and a team and ca­reer-best 1.5 steals in 25.7 min­utes of ac­tion. The guard and for­ward fin­ished the sea­son ranked 16th in the NBA in steals per game and fifth in steal-to-turnover ra­tio (1.66).

Team Africa will be cap­tained by Se­folosha and South Su­dan-born Luol Deng of Los An­ge­les Lak­ers. Mav­er­icks’ Dirk Now­itzki of Ger­many and the USborn Kemba Walker of the Char­lotte Hor­nets will lead Team World.

Other big names that will rep­re­sent Team Africa in­clude Bis­mack Biy­ombo, Clint Capela, Gorgui Dieng, Joel Em­biid, Serge Ibaka, Luc Mbah a Moute and Salah Me­jri.

Cas­tle Lite is NBA Africa’s part­ner and will host the af­ter-party at Mel­rose Arch on the day.

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