THE death of well known former South African Men’s basketball team player Lowell Mndaweni (40) from Sobantu, has been described as a “loss for the basketball community”. Mndaweni, who was buried on Saturday after a funeral service at Sobantu sports grounds, died last weekend after a short illness.At the time of his death, he was preparing for his role as head coach of Duzi Royals ahead of the upcoming season of the Basketball National League. His friend and former teammate, Flosh Ngwenya, said Mndaweni was always above the rest on the basketball court. “When we first set foot on a basketball court there was certain charisma about him. He was great and we knew he was going to be a great player. He carried a smile and was a true gentleman of the game. We lived in a flat together for more than five years and shared many great times.”Mndaweni was recognised by young and old.“He was a mega-superstar, but would walk in the street and greet everyone with a smile, signing autographs for the children. “He didn’t look at himself as a superstar - he looked at himself as a simple guy from Sobantu.”Duzi Royals captain Cyril Shabalala said Mndaweni was asked to take over the team last season but he refused.“This season he was ready [to take over], but unfortunately, now he’s gone. I grew up watching him play, and for me he was one of the older guys I respected in the game. “For him to be part of the Duzi Royals structure and impart his knowledge to players was great for us.”Shabalala said Mndaweni’s death came as a shock to the team. “When I heard the news on Sunday I couldn’t believe it. I had to make a couple of phone calls to make sure. I had spoken to him on Friday about what he wanted to achieve for the team and how he wanted me to assist him in making sure he achieved his goals. He was very humble and competitive.”Mndaweni’s basketball career began in 1994 at the then Alexandra Boys’ High, where he played for the first team. He then went on to represent Midlands schools. He became a household name in KZN at the height of their dominance in SA premier basketball league, which led to their rivalry with Gauteng. In 2001 he was selected to represent the country in basketball in the World Student Games in Beijing. He then played for the national senior basketball team from 2003.His involvement in the game stretched beyond the lines as he steadily gave back to his province as a mentor and coach at various city schools.