The tournament was held from 22-26 September with both the men’s and women’s divisions comprising 16 teams with surprisingly few absences considering COVID-19.
Men stay competitive throughout tournament
The UWC men were pooled in Group D for the round-robin stages alongside the always strong Vaal University of Technology (VUT), Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and University of Limpopo (UL).
The group results went largely as expected. UWC fought gamely against VUT in their tournament opener but fell short in the 61-53 loss. However, they then comfortably got the better of UL (66-28) and MUT (60-47) to seal second place and a quarterfinal berth.
That clash was against UJ, the defending champions and tournament favourites, who were too good for the boys in blue and gold – winning 67-46.
Not to be disheartened, UWC returned to court for the 5th-8th place playoffs against University of Pretoria and promptly claimed a 67-60 win before beating neighbours University of Cape Town 65-61 to secure fifth overall – an improvement on their eighth-place finish last time out in 2019. Wits dethroned their neighbours UJ to claim the men's title.
Women's team make big gains
Meanwhile, the women’s team also found themselves in Group D, where they were joined by Wits University, Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and University of Limpopo (UL).
Wits emerged as the group winners courtesy of their three straight wins but UDubs did secure second. Wits handily beat them in their tournament opener (69-29) but they bounced back to beat WSU (43-35) and UL (70-26).
That set up a quarterfinal clash against Group A winners, VUT, who are also the reigning Varsity Women’s Basketball champions. Unfortunately, UWC were no match for them, suffering a 95-18 defeat.
They too were now in the battle for places 5-8. It started well when the UDubs ladies outlasted Tshwane University of Technology 38-33, but then University of KwaZulu-Natal claimed fifth after ending UWC’s campaign with a 58-52 defeat.
As it happened, a sixth-place finish for UWC women was a marked improvement on the 2019 tournament when they only finished 12th. VUT won the women's title for an 11th time.
Quartet earn national recognition
At the conclusion of both tournaments, preliminary national teams were chosen with four UWC players catching the selectors’ eyes.
From the men’s team forward Sicelo Dzinga and point guard Nkosinathi Chibi met the criteria while women’s team guards Thina Campbell and Mihlali Mpako are in line to represent South Africa at the next CUCSA Games.
UWC’S USSA BASKETBALL 2021 SQUADS
Guards: Kean Arendse, Nkosinathi Chibi, Adrian Daniels, Bevan Jones, St John Land, Bradley Liang, Kwakho Ntsengentsu, Grant Sieas
Centre: Cole Newel
Forwards: Emmanuel Adisa, Sicelo Dzingwa, Kwezi Ngwenya
Guards: Asanele Buba, Thina Campbell, Nompumelelo Hlatshwayo, Mihlali Mpako, Iris Nzanana, Jodi Pieneer, Keasha Richards
Centres: Enretha Krotz, Banele Manana
Forwards: Mayenzi Dlamini, Anathi Mbuthu, Akhona Mili
Images courtesy Skhu Nkomphela on behalf of USSA Basketball