Tshilidzi Nephawe

He didn’t want to go at first, but Tshilidzi Nephawe’s schoolmates convinced him that, with his physique, he’d be a hit at the basketball clinic. The provincial players visiting Mphaphuli Secondary in Limpopo that day agreed. “Oh, this is the player right here!” they declared. In 2008 US-based Basketball Without Borders whisked the young phenom to California’s elite Stoneridge Prep on a scholarship. Here Nephawe excelled, becoming a mainstay playing centre for the basketball team. He even found the schoolwork “a lot easier than back home”. In 2010 Nephawe took a scholarship to play college hoops and study at New Mexico State University. He turned out for the Aggies in every game and — at 2.08m and 120kg — led the team in number of shots blocked. ESPN calls Nephawe an “aggressive post player that loves to create contact [and] uses his strength, athleticism and power to impact the game on both ends of the floor”.

Ian Macleod