Grassy Park’s Stephen Gabriel, 25, who plays in the Basketball National League (BNL) for the Western Cape Mountaineers, was among dozens of coaches that volunteered in a coaching clinic, run by African Grassroots Basketball Academy, at Waldorf Primary School, in Constantia,during the school holidays, offering up their valuable services for the sport they love so much.
The main aim of the clinic was to convey the basics of basketball and life skills to the players and with Gabriel being a national player, he stands as a role model for up-and-coming young ballers.
Gabriel said his aim is to positively influence the future generations using as many platforms as possible, basketball being primary among them.
“I want to show the youth that the social ills that plague our communities can be eclipsed by participation in sports.
“My words to all up-and-coming players are that hard work never goes unnoticed. You should be devoted to become a better player,” he said
Gabriel also plays for Montana Vikings in the Cape Town Basketball Super League and had a good season with both sides (Vikings and Mountaineers).
Both sides were semi-finalists in the league in their respective competitions.
The Mountaineers started their season with a bang, beating Mpumalanga Rhinos, North West Eagles and Soweto Panthers 86-68, 113-45 and 62-59, respectively.
They then hit a bump in the road when they went down 76-58 and 94-78 to Limpopo Pride and Egoli Magic respectively. That was the wake-up call they needed as they went on to win the rest of their league matches before going down 89-58 to Johannesburg’s Magic in the semi-finals.
Gabriel said the goal was to make the finals of the BNL because they went out at the same stage last year.
“Beating Soweto Panthers early in the season meant we had our fate in our own hands.
“However the two defeats against Limpopo Pride and Egoli Magic meant we had to beat two-time champions Tshwane Suns.
“This was the first time we beat them following a one point defeat in the third/fourth playoff match last year,” he said.
As they are busy with their off-season preparations, the former Grassy Park High School pupil said his side’s aim is to improve on their physical game and get better as a unit.
“If we improve on those aspects of the game, we can make the final and even take it next season,” he said.
Gabriel said they (Montana Vikings) did well in the season but losing to Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in the semi-finals was heartbreaking.
“We lost one game in the regular season against Cape Tech Alumni and beat CPUT comfortably so losing to them in the semis was a bit of a shock defeat. We will come back stronger next year,” he said.
Gabriel was introduced to the game by his older brother, Chris, at a young age. He then played for Mitchell’s Plain-based Gladiators Basketball Club.
In 2010, he made his debut for the South African under-21 side, when they finished third at the African Union Sport Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games, in Angola. He made his senior debut against Kenya in the Four Nations competition where SA came third, in 2015.
“It was a great sense of pride putting on the green and gold. I was nervous initially but settled down as the game continued,” he said.
Gabriel is a fan of four-time National Basketball Association(NBA) Most Valuable Player (MVP) Lebron James, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers in Ohio.
“Lebron is the most dominant player in the NBA and an all round player,” he said.