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Against the grain



Teboho in possession of the ballTeboho Lekaota Nkotsi defies ‘tradition’ to become a basketball star

Moorosi Tsiane

Playing football is the “normal” thing to do for Basotho youngsters and KTA All-Stars’ Teboho Lekaota Nkotsi was no exception when growing up in Khubetsoana.

And never in his wildest of dreams did Nkotsi ever think he would eventually play basketball, yet this is exactly what has happened to this down-to-earth sportsman.

Nkotsi, the first of three siblings born to Molipa and Malekaota, says of his choice of sport: “I didn’t like basketball as a young boy because I was what we called pantsula and saw basketball as a sport for sissies or Ma hipi.

“Like any other Mosotho boy, I grew up playing football with my friends which was the tradition for boys my age, although I was not that good at the game.

“Then one day in early 2003, I was watching my friends playing basketball with a team called Leseli, and the coach encouraged me to train with them, which marked the beginning of my love affair with the sport,” said 26-year-old Nkotsi on Wednesday.

“I was in Form B at Methodist High at the time, and I soon joined the school team. I would play for the school during the course of the term and then Leseli while on holiday.

“I played for Leseli until 2009 when, together with Lesotho Basketball Association public relations officer Ratsolo Molupe and vice-president Sekhoane Moshabesha, we decided to form Khubetsoana All-Stars or KTA in short.”

Nkotsi, who completed a degree in geology in 2013 at the University of Pretoria and is now employed by a local mining firm, has since helped All-Stars to numerous accolades and also won a host of individual awards.

He was also a member of the Lesotho under-20 team which played at the 2006 African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region V Games held in Namibia but came back home empty-handed.

Nkotsi said he had since become very serious about basketball and has not given up on his dream of joining a professional team abroad.

“When I started taking basketball seriously, playing in one of the professional leagues outside the country became my biggest dream. I would dream of playing in the United States of America, which made me train harder each day. So while I was at university in South Africa, I played for a professional team called Limpopo Pride, which was a dream-come-true for me, although I still hope to join a bigger team abroad and play basketball fulltime,” said Nkotsi.

Nkotsi believes Lesotho basketball has been growing steadily over the years, although he believes turning it professional would encourage more youngsters to join the sport.

“Basketball has been growing with each passing year and I think that negative attitude about the sport, which used to be so prevalent when I was growing up, is no longer there.

“These days, youngsters are into basketball big-time although the response would have been even greater if infrastructure was readily available. Our association needs to work hard to ensure that basketball courts are there in every district of the country so that the youths can play the sport wherever they are. The association also needs to have clear development structures if we are to have players who can compete with the best, and at the highest level.

“We are still at a very amateur level and the association must work extra-hard to change this by looking for sponsorship because turning professional requires a lot of money. It is a big problem to get a job in this country but if our basketball league could turn professional, at least it would help players and officials earn a living through the sport. I am positive that with time, we will get there; it only requires the association to come up with the right strategy of how to raise the required funding.”

Nkotsi explained why he did not stay with his South African team.

“I could still be playing in South Africa but the problem is their league is developing, so clubs don’t pay that much. I am still in touch with Limpopo Pride officials and they have asked me to come back on so many occasions but I have explained why I cannot return.”

Named the 2013/14 National Basketball League most disciplined player, Nkotsi says without self-control, most sportspeople fail to realise their potential.

“You need to be disciplined to make it in sport, and this means training hard and listening to advise.”

The support he continues to get from his family, Nkotsi said,  keeps him going both at his workplace and on the basketball court.

“My parents have always been there for me, and ensured I made the right choices and struck the right balance between basketball and my studies.

“However, it has been a bit difficult of late because my work commitments prevent me from training with my team as much as I would have wanted.”

Nkotsi, who says he trains on his own to make-up for the lost time, says he is looking forward to the new season.

“Like I said, talent alone is not enough; it needs to be complemented with hard work and dedication and that is what keeps me excelling in my chosen sport. Hopefully, when the 2015/16 season starts, we will be much stronger and re-claim our league title we lost to Bashana Ba Heso.”

Fact File

Name: Teboho Lekaota Nkotsi

Date of Birth: 22/10/1988

Place of Birth: Khubetsoana

Honours: League title with KTA All Stars in 2013/14; 2006 High Schools Basketball League Most Valuable Player (MVP); 2011 Summer Slam MVP; 2012 SA NBL Shooter of the Year; 2013/14 NBL Most Disciplined Player.

Played for national under-20 team.

Clubs: Leseli, Limpopo Pride (SA), KTA All Stars.

Favorite meal: Lasagna.

Dream car: Aston Martin.

Role model: Myself.

Other teams supported: Miami Heat (USA).

Marital status: In a relationship.

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