While Youth Day, June 16, is usually remembered as a day the apartheid police shot at protesting students in 1976, a group of basketball players used this year’s commemoration as the ideal opportunity for shooting of a different kind – shooting hoops.
Founder of African Grassroot Hoops, Giovanni Freeman, linked up with Sea Point High School’s basketball coach, Roscoe Masters – where the clinic was hosted.
More than 120 players swaggered out onto the high school’s double court.
Some were eager to learn new skills while others were craving a ball in their hands to shoot some three-pointers and throw down a few dunks.
Freeman, who launched the Grassroot Hoops project in 2014, helped establish Snipers in February, last year.
He said after the great turnout at their previous event held on Workers’ Day, May 1 – they decided a coaching clinic was in order.
“We were initially affiliated with three clubs – Hout Bay, Mitchell’s Plain and Gugulethu – and are now linked to nine clubs.
“We held a tournament for under-12, 14 and 16 players on Workers’ Day just to get the children out on the courts and playing.
“But, the Youth Day event was more about teaching the fundamentals of the game,” said Freeman.
“We decided to partner with existing clubs in the communities so that there was some stability.
“Our long-term vision is to build a double basketball court at each of our locations, and to help each club become self-sustainable,” he said.
“We help each club in the areas where they need assistance.
“If a club struggles to raise funds, then we help them raise funds; if another club is not good at training, then we help them to train the children.
“When I came to South Africa 10 years ago from America, people told me that basketball won’t work.
“But, if you look at the response at the clinic and at the tournament, you’ll see that the sport is alive in Cape Town.
“Philippi’s CNP Thunder and Cape Waves from Nyanga were some of the teams present on Youth Day. What’s really encouraging with these young players is that they play with heart.
“They don’t have the skills yet, but that’s what we are working on. But once we instil the basics and you play with heart, that’s when you have players who can play internationally,” said Freeman.
While Freeman taught the fundamentals of a defensive player at the clinic, Masters showed his group of players some dribbling basics,
“The clinic was aimed at children aged between nine and 14. It was a fun day to help build the skills of young players who enjoy playing basketball,” said Masters.
“In the past, not many schools offered basketball as a sport code but things are looking promising now.
“There’s a lot more opportunities for these youngsters to progress in this sport. I met Giovanni through a friend, last year.
“And, since then, he comes regularly to the school to see how things are going and to help out.
“A couple of weeks ago, he asked me if we’d like to host this event. After we pitched the idea to the principal and worked out all the logistics, that’s when the ball got rolling,” he said.
An art and design teacher, Masters took the initiative to get basketball going at the school.
“This is my third year at the school. Last year, we decided to get the sport going and it has now become one of the school’s sport codes.
“We will register an under-15 team this year because we’ve had a lot of commitment with this age group. Once we start competing, we’d also like to start an under-17 team. We’ll continue to work closely with Grassroot Hoops so that we can learn from their coaching methods,” he said.