Coach Olebile Kepaletswe from the Botswana team is confident that Botswana will win a medal during the Under 18 International Basketball Foundation (IBF) Young Lions Cup finals to be held in Gaborone, Botswana this coming weekend.Nine countries of Burundi, Mauritius, Comoros, Seychelles, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland have converged in Botswana for the second edition of the annual cup competition.
Kepaletswe assured this paper that the Botswana Team will come to the finals hungry for success and considering their form, a medal is within reach.Botswana finished on fourth position last year and Kepaletswe assured that they have been working on their weaknesses.
“Everything was all new for the team last year but they managed fourth position out of the 16 that participated. There is no telling what will happen this time around,” he said.Kepaletswe who is in charge of the girls’ team said that they have been busy at work together with colleague, Tiro Serumula who was managing the boys team, to bring the team to shape.
In his camp, Keplaetswe is sure that when things get a little bit tough, he can always pin his hopes on the likes of Lolo Ramatebele to be the main brains of the team but also not forgetting the hard hitting Winnie Ponoesele to dip her head in regardless of the circumstances.
He is confident the team has vast experience in the game saying he has been working with the girls for the past five years. However, he will have to rely on the team to execute his instructions well, noting that in this particular competition, they are not allowed to coach during the games.
The Botswana team will go into the tournament with a full squad free from injuries. Zimbabwe is the defending champions on both the girls and boys side. “If we beat Zimbabwe I will know for sure that we are really out for blood although Burundi has the height to their advantage and might also come out as a threat to the team,” he said.
BBA President Boineelo Hardy, when delivering her remarks at the event, said she was particularly excited about the legacy to be left behind by the hosting of the games. “We will have 2 shot clocks, 144 balls for 3x3 and not forgetting the workshop to train local referees,” she said.
The biggest benefit will undoubtedly be the structures that have been left in place, enabling the association to conduct games in six regions of the country. This means that for a change and first for basketball, structures that spread across the country will enable access to the games to more Batswana. During the inaugural edition last year, IBF delivered a 3x3 play mat and 3x3 balls. The equipment will be used during the second edition of the games.
Over 200 Botswana integrated Sports Association (BISA) and Botswana Primary School Sports Association (BOPSSA) athletes are currently in Maseru, Lesotho where they are expected to compete in the COSSASA games.
The ongoing multisport games started yesterday (Thursday). The official opening of the games was expected earlier today (Friday). The four-day showpiece is expected to conclude this Saturday and the rest of the team is expected back home on Monday.
Botswana is represented by six sport codes including Rugby, Netball, Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis and football. The team is made up of the under 13, 15 and 17 girls and boys.Speaking to BG Sport shortly before departure at the team’s send -off ceremony on Monday in Gaborone, BISA spokesperson Letsweletse Jonas said they would be going all out to defend their championship title in Lesotho.
Botswana secured nine medals in Zimbabwe last year and Jonas said they aim to increase the tally to at least 10. “It will not be a walk in the park, we expect to lock horns with powerhouses from South Africa, Malawi and Swaziland,” he said.
Jonas explained that South Africa and Swaziland have been absent from the tournament for a while and they expect them to come out stronger than ever.
Nevertheless he assured that his team is ready and they will not concede to any pressure imposed on them.
Given the four years that Botswana has been participating at the COSASSA games, Jonas said they have managed to maintain a good record as far as bringing home good results is concerned.
However his wish is to see other sporting codes included in the annual tournament. “We had wished that all our 12 codes could participate but the current six codes are the ones affiliated with COSASSA,” he said.
Jonas said that they have gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that all the athletes return home safely, adding that they have enough official personnel to keep close eye on the team.
According to Jonas, the team included 16 drivers, medical personel and coaches while BOPSSA president Busani Segweni is serving as head of delegation.