Local NBA fans in for a treat

NBA exhibition (Twitter)
NBA exhibition (Twitter)

Johannesburg - Utah Jazz defender Thabo Sefolosha will represent Team Africa against Team World in the highly anticipated National Basketball Association (NBA) Africa Game 2017 on Saturday.

The basketball game will take place at the 20 000-seater Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg.

The match follows the success of the first NBA match on African soil in 2015 at a sold-out Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg.

Sefolosha is not only a great defensive centre, he is also a donor to several community initiatives in the US as well as in South Africa.

An 11-year NBA veteran, Sefolosha fell in love with basketball at the age of 11 while living in Vevey, Switzerland.

He played in Switzerland and France before being drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2006.

In addition to playing for the Bulls, he also played for Oklahoma City Thunder, with whom he reached the 2012 NBA finals.

He also played for the Atlanta Hawks, who made it to the first round this year, but were defeated by the Washington Wizards.

Sefolosha is an ambassador for Imbewu, an after-school programme in South Africa that hosts a yearly basketball camp in Switzerland.

“Basketball is growing in South Africa. The first time I came over [14 years ago], we were just looking for players and leagues, and there was nothing going on.

"To see NBA televised and real tournaments staged, it feels like basketball is on the map,” Sefolosha told City Press four years ago.

Sefolosha is the son of South African singer Patrick, who escaped apartheid-era horror by emigrating to Switzerland with his Swiss wife, Christine.

The player sees his South African family of three uncles, seven aunts and a number of cousins in Mamelodi whenever he visits the country.

The 33-year-old first came to South Africa when he was 17 and immediately felt connected to them.

“I’ve always had a connection with South Africa.

"We grew up listening to South African music, and having people from here coming to stay with us and talking about what was happening.”

Known as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, Sefolosha appeared in 62 games (42 starts) for the Atlanta Hawks this past season, averaging 7.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and a team and career-best 1.5 steals in 25.7 minutes of action.

The guard and forward finished the season ranked 16th in the NBA in steals per game and fifth in steal-to-turnover ratio (1.66).

Team Africa will be captained by Sefolosha and South Sudan-born Luol Deng of Los Angeles Lakers.

Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki of Germany and the US-born Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets will lead Team World.

Other big names that will represent Team Africa include Bismack Biyombo, Clint Capela, Gorgui Dieng, Joel Embiid, Serge Ibaka, Luc Mbah a Moute and Salah Mejri.

Castle Lite is NBA Africa’s partner and will host the after-party at Melrose Arch on the day.

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