Manyang “Manny” Berberi, Cobra Sports head coach, follows a method that has proven successful since his time as a basketball coach in Australia. This is to put faith in South Sudanese children and prepare them for greater opportunities.
The Longhorns, a youth basketball club he started in Melbourne in 2003, continue to produce outstanding talent. Many of them have gone on to play basketball at college in the USA and elsewhere.
Cobra Sports is one of those playersWhen he was just four years old, he moved to Australia with his family, from South Sudan. He began playing development hoops in Berberi's Longhorns as a child.
Kiir, the standout player of Cobra's BAL Nile Conference wasESPN:[My brothers]Manny used to play for the same basketball club that Manny was coaching. Manny discovered [about me].
“He observed me over time and I just continued growing and growing, and he invited me to join the club to play.”
Kiir earned a scholarship at Victory Rock Prep (Bradenton, Florida) and played college basketball for Louisiana State University, New Mexico State University, New Mexico State University, then Central Baptist College.
Kiir attributes Berberi's influence to his US success, saying that he was simply enjoying basketball. He began talking to me like, “You can make something out of yourself,” and was pushing me to visit the United States. That's when my long-term thinking started.
“It was very big for me because I was still young. When he began to invest more in me, I discovered that it could be more tangible.”
Kiir had lost his father during the Second South Sudanese Civil War. Kiir was unable to see him since 2012 when he returned home. Kiir discovered about the Basketball Africa League after he visited him again.
Kiir stated that there was a South Sudan basketball league and that they were competing for the BAL.
“Also Manny was coming down, and he informed me that he was going be my head coach. It was a great opportunity, I felt it was good for me. I had been out in South Sudan and was interested.
Berberi, who immigrated from Kenya to Australia at the age of 20 after fleeing war-torn South Sudan when he was just 20, founded the Longhorns to create a basketball team that could bring together the South Sudanese community.
Berberi knew that it can be difficult to feel connected as an immigrant. “In the early 2000s when it first began, the vast majority” [of club members]Because the South Sudanese community was still new to Australia at the time, many of them were from South Sudan.
“It was just a way of getting people together to socialise; meet their cousins and their friends. We developed the junior programme over time so that other young people could join the team.
“It didn’t really matter their race, they could just join our team. However, a lot of the Longhorns players are from the South Sudanese Community. They love basketball so they joined the Longhorns team.”
Serving people with similar backgrounds to his has given him a sense pride in his country and a feeling of connection to his roots. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia last year for his services to the South Sudanese community.
Berberi is a youth counsellor and works outside of basketball. I have learned a lot both from them. It's a pleasure to return to South Sudan and help out.
“Having lived in many countries makes them all part of you. So I feel like I'm South Sudanese as well as Kenyan, and I like how they have shaped and shaped me.”
Berberi was brought back to South Sudan to help Cobra because of his track record as an Australian basketball star, and his close relationship with Luol Deng (former NBA star, current South Sudan Basketball Federation president).
Berberi explained that his Cobra team averages 23 years old, which fits his youthful ideals perfectly.
“South Sudan had been invited by FIBA to the Zone 5 qualifiers in Nairobi. So he contacted some players to form a team, and we went with him to Nairobi.
“Recently, during the World Cup qualifiers, I went to South Sudan to support the national team and, of course, with Cobra when the BAL was announced. They won the South Sudan league championship.
“For them, qualifying for Cairo was a big chance, so they reached out to me and asked, ‘Hey! Can you help us? Because you have been coaching so long.
“I said, “Ok, well I'm going to Africa anyway to support their national team. So from Dakar (Senegal), I'll fly down to South Sudan to support you guys in Cairo. Egypt.”
Berberi isn't the only Australia-connected coach on the BAL. Liz Mills, US Monastir, has already led her side to the Kigali playoffs. [May 21-28]During the Sahara Conference, March.
He said of his Australian colleague: “She is a very skilled coach and has been in Africa for some time. She is passionate about basketball. I've seen her coach in tournaments in Australia. She's a very skilled coach, and she's coached many clubs on the African continent.
“Last season, at AfroBasket, she coached Kenyan national soccer team. We are proud of her. I hope we can get to Kigali, Rwanda and qualify.
The top four finishes in the six-team Nile Conference [running till April 19]They would reserve their place in the playoffs in Rwanda in March.