UFH - Basketball - Sinokholo Dyonase

To say Fort Hare basketball star Sinokholo Dyonase’s parents were shocked when she called them about her selection for the Eastern Cape Windbreakers is something of an understatement.

The fact is they did not even know that she was playing the sport at university, let alone excelling on the national stage.

“It was news to them,” the 20-year-old social work student recalled with a giggle. “They said, ‘No, not you! When did you start?’”

You can understand their surprise, given their daughter’s call-up to the Windbreakers came only months after taking up the game at the tertiary institution in Alice.

In Lady Frere, where she grew up, basketball was not offered at Mkapusi Senior Secondary and, while she played a bit of netball, it never really took her fancy.

It was an entirely different story when UFH recruiters approached her last year to ask whether she would be interested in trying out for basketball. Standing an impressive 182cm in her socks, they believed her physical presence made her ideal for the sport.

“I didn’t know anything; I started from scratch,” she explained.

UFH - Basketball - Sinokholo Dyonase

A mere 12 months after starting to play basketball, Fort Hare star Sinokholo Dyonase is making waves in the Basketball National League. Photo: Full Stop Communications

“My coach, Thembekile Blaai, taught me the basics of basketball and, when I got to the Windbreakers, they helped me improve. Now I can’t go a day without practising.”

So overwhelmed was the forward when she got the nod for the EC pro team, she wept uncontrollably.

“I was really surprised. It was so amazing. I thought, ‘Surely not me?’”

Being chosen for the squad is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Not only are players going up against their provincial peers for spots in the outfit but also those from elsewhere in the country who hope to play in the prestigious Basketball National League (BNL).

And when they do make the big league, they have to compete against giants like the Soweto Panthers and defending champions Mountaineers who test their skills every minute of every game.

Despite that calibre of opposition, Dyonase said it was important to maintain a “winning mindset”.

“You can’t let your opponents drain or affect you.

“No doubt it is tough, but you need to be prepared to fight. Because of that, I believe I belong at this level.”

She participated in her second USSA tournament earlier this month but it was her first go at the national event last December that proved pivotal.

“It made me realise I still needed to work on certain things. It also made me want to be an All-Star and that, as a player, I want to dominate,” she said.

Asked whether her attributes as an aspirant social worker were useful in basketball, she laughed.

“Sometimes. I do have a lot of patience but obviously things happen in the game that can be frustrating.

“But if we (the team) keep the spirit we have now we could take Fort Hare far. Teamwork makes the dream work.”