From humble beginnings to playing on an international stage, Lutho Skweyiya has broken through all boundaries in his ascension to the pinnacle of university sport: FISU World University Games.
Skweyiya who is currently completing his postgraduate advanced diploma in Sustainable Development at Stellenbosch University did not always have it as easy as his peers. Maties Sport offered the upcoming basketball star financial assistance from his first year of studies and with the guidance of Maties Basketball management, has ensured Skweyiya thrived throughout his time at university. One such person is Head Coach Masie Ntlali of Maties Basketball men’s side who recalls in fondness when he first recognized Skweyiya’s talent on the court.
“I started noticing him when he was in Grade 9 at the Western Cape Sport School. Since then, I monitored his progress at school, provincial and junior national team level. When he arrived here at Maties in 2019, he had to adjust to the physicality of the game and be able to navigate his way through the bigger opponents. We had to work on his confidence, speed, strength and power to compliment his basketball IQ for him to be able to compete at a senior level. Now Lutho is a solid point guard that does not fear anyone no matter how big the team because he understands his own strength,” Ntlali explained.
Skweyiya recollects his difficulty playing soccer during his primary school days, but it was this setback that motivated him to strive to do better in another sporting code that more suited his capabilities. “For as long as I can remember, I have always been competitive. There was a basketball court at my school and I signed up for the basketball team. I was too young to play games, but I never minded that because I just really enjoyed the practices. When I finally had an opportunity to play a match, I already had a feel for the game and everything was just natural. I never bothered trying any other sport because I knew this was it,” expressed the 23-year-old.
“Being undersized on the court always places you in an underdog position. There’s a lot of life lessons that come with playing basketball. The ability to collaborate individual skills to achieve a set goal is a skill I carry with me on and off the court. Everyone is gifted but realizing you can be ten times better by learning and empowering others is a game changer.”
His coach who has known him for close to ten years attests that he is a remarkable player with even greater leadership qualities, Ntlali said: “Lutho is a great athlete, one of the best if not the best point guard in the country at university level. To me, he is the complete athlete; I am saying this because it is seldom to get an athlete at his height with a big heart – someone who knows how to use his strength to his advantage. He understands his roles both on offense and defence and is able to control the game.
I’ve worked with a lot of ‘top achiever’ athletes that you can change and win a game for us but Lutho is different. He understands that for him to grow as a player he needs to make sure that his teammate elevates their game too. He spent a lot of time guiding our rookies (junior) players. His teammates look up to him on and off the court. He shares his success and failures with the team. Just to mention 2 examples that stood out for me with regards to how he values our team:
- He always encourages the guys to trust the process and he uses his story (academic & sport) as testimonial because he wants everyone to grow.
- He dedicated his USSA All Star trophy to the basketball programme because he values the support of his teammates.”
Testament to Coach Ntlali’s words, Skweyiya owes his success and call up to the national side to his teammates, “It’s very validating, I really wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for my teammates. They always place me in a position to be successful and play their hearts out to ensure we achieve the results we want. Being granted the opportunity to join a national team and have the challenge to compete in a high-level environment is a privilege. I have learnt to always be a student of the game and having a growth mentality allows me to learn something new every day,” said Skweyiya.
It is true that Skweyiya is no stranger to success on the court, he represented South Africa in an u17 African Basketball tournament and when joining Maties was always a standout performer for the first team basketball side and at University Sport South Africa (USSA) competitions. A highlight for the point guard is having recently played for South Africa at the World University Games in Chengdu, China. “World University Games are his Olympic moment what else can a student/coach ask for, I am proud of him and how he led us as a team,” remarked Coach Ntlali.
“I hope that he continues to strive to be the best that he can be. I hope he uses the soft skills that he learnt through his sporting career to advance himself on his professional field outside of sport,” the Head Coach went on to say.
All this was made possible through the backing of the university, Maties Sport’s continuous support meant that the point guard was able to participate on an international stage. “Maties Sport has really granted me the opportunity to focus on my dreams and continuously work towards them to the best of my ability by utilizing the great resources provided on campus like the gym and academic support services,” said Skweyiya. His time is now managed more efficiently and notes that he can “achieve on and off the court”.
Skweyiya hopes to end of the year as a Stellenbosch University graduate and continuingly perfects in his craft by aiming to be the best point guard in Africa but none of this would be possible without the inspiration of his parents who have also overcome their own adversities. “My parents inspire my work ethic to continuously strive for my goals. Making them proud is such a privilege and an amazing feeling. They always support me regardless of what I do and that unconditional love never allows me to drop my head but to keep pushing forward regardless of the circumstances,” he concluded.
By Kimara Singh