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UJ 3x3 basketball team head to finals in China

The University of Johannesburg 3x3 basketball team will be one of four African sides to compete in the World University League finals in Xiamen, China, later this month.

This comes after the men's team won the Federation of Africa University Sports (Fasu) competition in Johannesburg earlier this year, defeating the Ugandan Makerere University team in the final.

The UJ women's team took bronze at the same tournament.

UJ basketball manager Anton van Rooyen said the team played in their first-ever 3x3 tournament at Makerere University in Uganda last December, finishing fifth overall.

Now the team of Mpumelelo Mahlati, Skumbuzo Mthembu, Nqosa Lehloenya and Wade Hassett have emerged as the African varsity champions to qualify for the world tournament from October 21 to 23.

They will be coached by Mandla Ngema and will leave for China on October 17.

Van Rooyen said this basketball format was played on a halfcourt with three players in each team targeting one hoop. There is one substitute in each side.

A game is played over a single period of 10 minutes with sudden death at 21 points. The winner is the first team to score 21 or the team with the highest score at the end.

Having only initiated the game at UJ last year, Van Rooyen said they were delighted to have qualified for the World University League finals.

"The players are excited and a bit nervous of what lies ahead as this is new ground for all of us.

"The defending champions are McGill University from Canada and we know that the American universities will be strong. We are aiming to give it our best shot and to be competitive."

He added that while UJ had regularly competed in the sport, coming third in the regular format at the University Sport South Africa (Ussa) week this year, the 3x3 version was relatively new.

"We plan to have an internal league in the near future," said Van Rooyen.

He pointed out that Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) were the only other local university team who competed in the Fasu competition this year and hoped others would follow suit next year.

Van Rooyen said 3x3 was played at a high pace with competitors having to "think on their feet and make quick decisions".

"You need to have the guts to drive forward and good shooting skills," he added.

There will be four pools of four teams each in Xiamen, with the top two in each advancing to the quarter-finals.

"We are the first South African varsity to attend an event like this so it is a ground-breaking trip for others to follow," said Van Rooyen.

"In preparation we are doing a lot of gym work with a fitness trainer and we are playing games against our alumni, who are much stronger than the students."

Van Rooyen said they were told it would be sunny and hot in China.

"With Xiamen being a coastal city, we expect it to be humid as well."

The UJ 3x3 basketball players to compete in the World University League finals in Xiamen, China, from October 21 to 23 are, from left, Skumbuzo Mthembu, Nqosa Lehloenya, Mpumelelo Mahlati and Wade Hassett. Photo: Supplied

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