Tenacity Magazine caught up with Tshilidzi “Big Chilli” Nephawe, the International basketball star playing his trade in Japan. The 30-year-old Kumamoto Volters Center is currently on an off season break in the Japanese B.League. He took time off to reconnect with his former mentors and engage with young people in Limpopo Province.
Nephawe hosted a basketball clinic with the learners from Nirvana and neighbouring schools at the Nirvana basketball court as part of his community engagement programme. The clinic was preceded by a meet and greet session with Limpopo MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture, Thandi Moraka. They discussed possibilities of collaboration for grassroots sport development in Limpopo province. MEC Moraka emphasized government’s commitment to work hand in hand with successful Athletes to advance sport development.
“Big Chilli” is concerned about lack of sports facilities in rural areas because it impedes development and growth of young and aspiring athletes. This also hampers development of sport in rural communities. Nephawe was born and raised in Ngwenani village, outside Thohoyandou and has firsthand experience of conditions in rural areas. His career took off when he relocated overseas.
When one of the learners asked him how he dealt with his relocation to the overseas he said that he was home sick almost the whole year, but later realised it was much better for his development and growth as a basketball player.
With over ten (10) years of playing professional basketball, the Ngwenani born is satisfied with where he is playing at the moment. He believes that there is always room for development and works hard to make sure that he always gives 100 percent in every game.
Nephawe went to Mphaphuli Secondary School in Venda and he was then recruited to play for the Limpopo’s provincial basketball team in May 2006. He joined Stoneridge Preparatory School in California (2007) and the New Mexico State University (2010-2015). His career blossomed and when an opportunity to play professionally came, he chose to go to Japan in 2015.
He is currently a regular at Kumamoto Volters and enjoying the best years of his career and loves reconnecting with his people. “It is important for me to invest my time to connect with young people who are passionate about basketball. I always tell them to take the sport serious because they will be able to get an education and playing basket ball.”