Ludwig Gerdes is currently studying BCom Management at UP. He juggles this with his responsibilities as a shooting guard and a small forward for Tuks’ first team basketball.
What made you decide that this sport was a passion and not just a pastime for you?
I started playing basketball when I was 14, but only because Pretoria High School for Boys made sport compulsory. It was only when I turned 15 that I started to become more serious about the sport. I would say the first time I felt the passion was the first time I played a game. Previously I hadn’t been able to play a game as I hadn’t made a team. The cheering from the spectators instilled a feeling of achievement in me that encouraged me to carry on pursuing the sport. By grade 11 I had improved drastically and that’s when one of my coaches put the idea in my head that I could go much further with the sport and make a career out of it. I had a special bond with my coach and that largely affected how I saw the sport. [All of this] has created the passion within me to work hard and excel in basketball.
What do you think you bring to a basketball game?
I would say I bring heart to a game. I am a very emotional player so I’ll do anything to win for my team. I feel [that] because I play not only for the moment but for my future in the sport, I will put in the extra hours.
You also coach for Pretoria Boys High School. Do you find it hard balancing your job, university studies and basketball?
Yes, definitely, because you have to decide where you want to commit your time. It’s not just the physical aspect of it but also the mental commitment. I have basketball practice twice a week at night, with morning sessions at various times throughout the week. I also do rehabilitation training as a result of my injury that I do twice a week. I coach three times a week in the afternoon and because I’m in first year, I have a substantial amount of modules. Basketball has always been a constant and I tend to focus on basketball because I know that’s what I want to be doing. Realistically, however, I know I can’t completely focus on basketball and hope that it carries me through life, because I know how easily it can all be taken away. I do consider what happens after one’s professional career and therefore that is a big reason why I see importance in studying as well.
Basketball is not a big sport in South Africa. Do you think it has the potentialto become one?
It’s tough to say because I think it has the potential to grow. To get the exposure needed we need the right people in the right positions of the sport. We currently do not have [that]. Energies are unfortunately focused elsewhere. I also think that it needs to be implemented in primary schools so that a strong foundation can be laid. They have created a professional league in South Africa and we have very professional players but a lot of them are maturing as players and only have a few years left to play the sport. You don’t want to grow the league with players from overseas. If you want the sport to grow you need to get the league to grow.
Where do you see yourself five years from now, with specific reference to basketball?
I have no immediate plans to play for the South African league. Since high school I have felt that I can grow a lot more, in terms of basketball, by going overseas, either to North America or Europe. I’m not a very [well] travelled person so that would also be a benefit of going overseas to pursue [a] professional basketball career. Playing for the South African league does, however, exist as a backup plan.
There are some very good teams in the league that I would like to play for. I believe the league would have changed substantially from what it is now. I don’t see myself in a regular office job, so I definitely think basketball is a way for me to help myself and inspire others with the same dream. I will ultimately always strive to blend basketball into aspects of my career if all else fails.