The rise and rise of Bokamoso

The rise and rise of Bokamoso

Maseru – Bokamoso South have taken the Lesotho basketball scene by storm. The upstart team are top of the National Basketball League ahead of experienced luminaries such as national champions KTA All-Stars and Bashana Baheso (BBH) and are being viewed as serious contenders to win this season’s NBL title.
There is good reason; last October Bokamoso South captured the Sprite Memorial Independence Tournament and in December added the prestigious Sprite Summer Slam Charity Tournament to their fast growing collection of silverware.

Bokamoso South are part of the burgeoning Bokamoso Basketball Development Programme which also sees Bokamoso North topping the NBL women’s league.
The club was founded in 2012 and thepost caught up with Bokamoso head coach Fako Masupha who oversees this extensive basketball programme. In this wide ranging interview Masupha discusses Bokamoso’s style of play and plans for the future.

When and why was Bokamoso formed?
Masupha: Bokamoso was officially registered with the Lesotho Basketball Association and Ministry of Cooperatives and Trade in 2013.
The primary objective is to keep the youth of Lesotho out of trouble and to help them develop as responsible young adults and diligent members of the community.
The organisation aims to grow the mind, body and soul of the youngsters, incorporating elements of guidance and life-skills into all programming.

What is the mission or goal of the Bokamoso Basketball Programme?
Our goal is to be the primary developer of Basotho youth into responsible and diligent members of society in order to nurture more empowered generations that will turn Lesotho into a benchmark country.

How many players and teams are in your programme?
The Bokamoso Basketball Club is aimed at providing a competitive basketball atmosphere while also providing camaraderie and community service opportunities for all children under the age of 21. The club has registered four teams made up of two girls and two boys teams in the 2016/17 National Basketball League (NBL) season and is planning on registering a fifth team based on growth.  These teams in the league are part of the National Team Development Pipeline which is aimed at grooming young boys and girls for the national team at various levels for the LBA.  The two ladies teams are mostly made up of players that form the national Under-20 and Under-17 teams respectively. In basketball there are 15 players per team and Bokamoso currently has four teams, meaning that it is catering for 60 registered players.
But, we also have 115 players who are not registered with the LBA because of the limited space.

Is the programme sustainable? In terms of finances, do you have sponsors and backing?
Yes, the programme is sustainable. We are currently using money from our pockets to fund activities and we are really struggling but it’s worth mentioning that some companies and institutions are helping us.  There is 2nd Wave Fitness which is a newly established sport, health, and recreation company that is spearheading the introduction of Cross-fit (exercise) within Lesotho. Cross-fit is the sport of fitness and 2nd Wave shall be leading the development of elite athletes.
We have the Lesotho Work Camps Association which is a not-for-profit organisation that focuses on community and youth development through the execution of various development projects.  There is Galitos Maseru which believed in Bokamoso and its ideals and sponsored the team with four playing jerseys (120 shorts and 120 vests).
This was a valiant effort but, because of the growth of the team, it is less than half of what is required.
Berltex Printers also believed in Bokamoso and sponsored the team with four sets of tracksuits (60 bottoms and 60 tops) but again, because of the size of the team, this is much less than is required.

Are you looking for sponsors? What are you doing to attract sponsors?
It is the intention of Bokamoso to establish strategic partnerships with individuals and organisations that are champions for youth and community development and that value the development of Basotho society.  So yes, we are really looking for sponsors and please allow me to take this opportunity once again to call for help from all companies, organisations and individuals who believe in youth development through sports and values of Olympism to sponsor and or assist us.  We are actually not performing at our best due to financial constraints so we are not only opening doors for good Samaritans, but also request them to assist our initiative.

After developing the players, do you follow their progress? For the ones that don’t make the first team, do you help them find teams or assist in other ways?
Yes, we monitor players everywhere they are. Even after they leave our programme we still give them opportunities, we still call them to our camps and invite them when we leave for international tournaments.  An example is the NUL Rovers team that is almost 80 percent made up of players from our programme.
Those players still play the (annual) Swaziland club championship tournament with us and I still go over to their homes and coach them during holidays.

When did Bokamoso start in the NBL?
From my knowledge we started playing in LBA competitions back in 2012 before Bokamoso could get an official name. We first came into the LBA as “Metsoalle”.
We have been winning the LBA Development League since it started in 2012 until 2016. We then joined the LBA senior league (NBL) in the 2015/2016 season where we finished national runners up.

Why do you have Bokamoso North and South in the league?
Because Bokamoso is a national programme, we have players coming from all ten districts, including Thaba-Tseka, Butha-Buthe and Quthing.
So, because of the huge number of our players, we had to partition teams into regions because we believed that it’s easier for players coming from one region to combine and play well.
We decided to merge all southern teams and call them Bokamoso South and merge northern teams together with central Thaba-Tseka and Maseru into Bokamoso North.

How difficult was it for Bokamoso South to deal with losing the NBL men’s finals last year to KTA All-Stars? What did you learn from that defeat?
It was sad losing against KTA in the national play-off finals but considering the fact that the boys were rookies and just came into the league it was an achievement for us.
However, we had to go back to the drawing board to revise our strategies towards achieving our goal to conquer Lesotho and Africa so we had to make a few signings and we went back to gym hard to prepare for this season. Yes, we were motivated because the boys saw that they have potential (to win the title), all that was needed was hard work and dedication.
They also learnt that at the senior league level we have to have mental strength and not give away possession easily. So, we worked on their mental strength and decision-making processes.

What has been the secret to your success this season?
Hard work, dedication, mental strength is our key strength and secret so far. We have nothing but passion. We work hard and our success comes from hard work.

Which players in your team have done well this season?
Definitely as a coach I would be saying all players but Nako Mofube has been outstanding for us since 2015. He has a record of two Most Valuable Player (MVP) trophies during a space of six months in 2016.  He contested for the most improved player in 2015 season. We also have Khotso Tšepe, Makopoi Makolane and Thabang Letlala who became Rookie of the Year last year.  We also have Neo Nkokoto, Maphethe Mohale and Matšepo Mojela who have been instrumental in the ladies teams. They have been with the programme for some time now and we have the arrivals of Lebo Palime and Nkhethuoa Makhorole.  We also have players such as Liteboho Sejane, Tšepiso Motloi and Monyaluoe Lebajoa who have not been playing in the ladies side due to exams but are back in the team now and we are expecting them to provide more depth.

How would you describe your style of play? What type of basketball do you wish to play or develop as a club?
It is called Running and Gunning. It is a Mountain Kingdom style but now we have new modifications on the defence that we pressure and press the opponents.
We need to have a high conversion rate and force opponents to make mistakes and lose possession. We seek to have possession in every 15 seconds of play.

Some viewers and opponents say your style of play is too aggressive. What do you say to that?
It’s not a new thing for me to hear that. We play a high tempo game and we pressure our opponents and are a bit physical. Not everyone loves that style of play.
It’s not common in our region and the NBL and because these teams are not used to the high pressure, they can’t take the heat and they tend to be rude on the boys. But, we are not backing down; we know this is what Lesotho needs.  It’s a perfect style of play that we ought to adopt as a young team that has no experience. Also, for the fact that Lesotho’s national teams are small and lack height, we have to adopt this style of play as a nation.  But, we maintain sportsmanship and humanity; we do not injure or play out of the set rules.

What are the targets for this season?
Yes, obviously we want to win the NBL title in both categories. Our target for the rest of the season is to go undefeated.

Which other NBL teams have impressed you this season? Who are your main rivals?
I’m very pleased with NUL Rovers and Khubestate, they have really improved and they caused a couple of sad moments for big teams but not only that, they are united and working as a team.  For example, Rovers won the BOLESWA intervarsity games (contested by the University of Botswana, National University of Lesotho and National University of Swaziland) last year. Leseli (Tigers) has also improved a lot considering they have lost so many players.

Which game are you looking forward to the most in the second half of the season?
Obviously our games with KTA and BBH are the toughest ones for us because we play against talent and experience. Having said that, we treat all games with respect and, because we are underdogs, we play hard in every game regardless of the strength of the opposing team.

As the Bokamoso basketball programme, do you model your style on any club?
It’s a combination of ideas and different styles of play that I have identified in the whole of Africa and abroad, so Bokamoso plays its Mozambique and Angolan style of play.
As a coach I am obviously modelling my style on coach Mike Krzyzewski, he is the United States national team coach and Duke University coach. I also prefer former Boston Celtics coach, Doc Rivers.

Where do you want see Bokamoso in five years, 10 years?
We want Bokamoso to be the best producers of young, talented and competitive players in Lesotho and Africa. We actually seek to be a benchmark in Africa for basketball and nationally we want to be the superpowers in all aspects — administration, playing and life at large.
Luciah Phahla

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