North West Province claimed the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge title for the second consecutive year with a 66-34 victory over North Gauteng at Vodaworld in Midrand. With that they have received R100 000 in prize money.

Following the match, Vodacom’s Executive Head of Sponsorship & Regional Marketing Bronson Mokabela made a surprise announcement of the R100 000 purse.

Instead of hosting the event at the Vodacom Mandeville Indoor Centre, as in previous years, the match was played in the Vodadome and Vodacom World, where a court had to be assembled.

North Gauteng banked on the nearly three-decades’ experience of player-coach Willie Mulder.

Mulder, the longest serving active wheelchair basketball player in South Africa, featured in his record 28th consecutive national championships in Potchefstroom last weekend.

The former South African wheelchair basketball player was an important cog in North Gauteng’s campaign to wrestle the title away from defending Vodacom Challenge champions, North West.

Looking back on his career which started back in 1987, Mulder said much had changed since he took his first shot at a hoop.

“The wheelchairs are a lot different, originally we did not play in anti-tip chairs (a frame with wheels at the back and in front to stabilise the chairs) and they had a completely different design."

“I only started playing basketball when I was 25-years-old and within 8 months I made the national side which I played for from 1989 to 2008,” Mulder said.

However, Mulder said the biggest changes were not so much the equipment but more the way the skill levels had advanced over the years.

Players now have the ability to tilt on one wheel to shoot a fade-away shot, while some players can even execute jumps. “The level of the game has improved immensely, things they do in the chairs have change, they can tilt and shot, it is phenomenal to see,” Mulder said.

And it was exactly these skills that clinched victory for the Northwesterners. While the two top teams in the country battled it out for the title a star-studded line-up of sporting celebrities beat the eventual champions in the Exhibition curtain-raiser.

Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs legends Mark Fish, Lucas Radebe, Jerry Sikhosana and Brian Baloyi,and Vodacom Blue Bulls players Arno Botha and Ryan Nell made up a dream team.

Speaking after the match, Botha saluted the wheelchair basketball players for the insane skills they displayed on court. “These guys are unbelievable with the amount of skills they show-off, it is actually amazing what they do,” said Botha.

Radebe, who in his heyday was one of the finest defenders for both club and country, found it tough having to swap his legs for a wheelchair and urged people to get involved with the sport.

“The best way is to get involved and do it yourself, and see how it is, people who have the use of all their limbs take small things for granted,” Radebe said.