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Northwood’s Lusanda Hlongwane is a must-watch basketball talent

By Ongama Gcwabe , in Basketball | Featured Basketball | News , at 2024-03-13 Tags: ,

There is often something special about youngest siblings. Northwood‘s star basketball player, Lusanda Hlongwane, is the youngest of five boys in his Melville-based household and he is, undoubtedly, something special.

And, like the u19 Cricket World Cup Player of the Tournament, 17-year-old Kwena Maphaka, the younger brother of professional cricketer Tetelo Maphaka, the advantage that Hlongwane has over his peers is almost unheard of.

On a cricket field, Maphaka bowls at speeds and with skills that trouble his peers, while on the courts, Hlongwane dribbles, shoots, rebounds and passes with a level of efficiency that is usually seen only in the professional ranks.

Standing 6’5″ tall, at the tender age of 18, Hlongwane and Northwood have enjoyed a fairytale run since the 2024 team came together as the Stayers side in the latter part of last year. He was recently named the MVP of the St John’s College Basketball Tournament and, truthfully, his status as MVP was crystal clear and unchallenged.

There, he helped Northwood capture the most prestigious title in South African schools’ basketball in dominating fashion, despite the Knights facing the cream of South Africa’s basketball-playing schools.

Hlongwane is seemingly shy off the court but growing up playing with and against four older brothers instilled courage and mental toughness in him, and those two traits stand out in his game.

“It was easy to catch onto everything. Since I started playing basketball, I wasn’t that player who struggled to catch onto (concepts), because everything was easy,” Hlongwane said, reflecting on the impact of his upbringing.

“Even when my coaches told me what to do, I’d just do it because everything was easy.

“My older brothers would train in the morning, or maybe in the afternoon, and would ask me to come with them, and we’d all go and train. So, for me it was easy, because everything was just there,” he said in an exclusive conversation with SuperSport Schools Plus.

Lusanda Hlongwane

Like Michael Jordan had coach Phil Jackson to guide him, Hlongwane has Douglas Nedab, the Director of Basketball Operations and Head Coach at Northwood School.

“I think him having older brothers, whether he saw it at that point in time or not, it certainly made him mentally tougher,” said Nedab.

“I think whenever we challenge him, he just gives us a thumbs-up and a wink and it’s time to make it happen on the floor, which is pretty funny because he’s so chilled and laid-back. But I think we’ve gotten to a point where he executes at a high level now,” he added.

Hlongwane’s chill is concealed by his overwhelming dominance on the boards, at both ends of the court. It’s also his ability to turn that dominance into points that makes him different, whether it be with an assist from a defensive position, or a bucket on offence. His finishing, too, is assured and consistent.

However, it’s his all-round game and superior athleticism that impresses most. He provides major contributions in all ways: scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks. And he leads by example.

Nedab himself is an interesting case study. Having come to South Africa from the United States of America as part of a non-profit organization, he has grown to love Mzansi and found purpose in upskilling and guiding the country’s promising ballers.

Assessing Hlongwane’s potential, Nedab couldn’t hold back his excitement and he went as far as mentioning the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a realistic goal for the youngster.

“Based on the feedback I’ve been getting from the people I know, and the people who watch the games, I know he could excel in the US. He has the game for it. If he really keeps working, I’m not bluffing when I say I think the NBA is very possible for him,” Nedab reckoned.

“But it will take a different work ethic, an area that he’s already improved on, because there’s so many guys that are 6’5”, who can dribble, shoot and pass.

“He just has to work harder, and I know he’s gotten better at it, but it’s going to take another gear to switch into is all I’m saying,” he concluded.

For many who have witnessed Lusanda Hlongwane’s massive impact on the court this season, they’ll believe he has the tools to go all the way, including the drive and the mental toughness. The NBA is, admittedly, a long shot, but he might just be the one to lead the way into a brighter future for South African basketball.

error: Sorry ol' chap, those shenanigans are not permissible.