Dar es Salaam. When future generations read about Tanzanian basketball, one name will no doubt feature prominently.
He now harbours ambitions of going into coaching once his iconic playing career comes to an end.
This is none other than Lusajo Samuel, one of the best basketball players Tanzania has ever produced.
Samuel, Oilers’ guard, will surely feature in the memoirs for being one of a few players who helped shape the sport in the country.
Now 35-years-old and nearing the end of his career as a player, he admits that he would like to continue working in basketball as a coach.
But, he adds quickly, only when his body and mind feel it’s time to retire from the court.
“The idea of becoming a coach is on my mind,” the gifted guard says.
He adds: “For a long time, I didn’t think about it because right now the thing I think about is playing basketball.
“But in the near future, I think the desire to coach will be stronger.”
From Jitegemee Secondary School in Dar es Salaam, where he learned basics of the game, to top clubs like Savio, Samuel has worked his way up to be confident of being a coach.
He has also been a key member of the national team since making his international debut in 2006.
“I’m very grateful to coach Lusekelo Mbwele, who noted some potential in me and introduced me to the game,” he recalls.
“He taught me all the basics as I began my basketball journey that has been very successful,” he says, smiling.
He further says: “I have had my ups and downs, but I’m very privileged to have played under different coaches over the years.
“It helped me embrace hard work and also improve my interpersonal skills.
“Basketball has provided me with an opportunity to improve my life through a scholarship, and I never looked back as I made sure I performed well both in class and on the pitch.”
Better days were yet to come for Samuel, who says that thanks to basketball he never went on a job hunting mission like many fellow Tanzanians do.
In 2014, he was named the RBA League top scorer, despite his side finishing second behind JKT Stars.
Samuel says he was inspired by former Oilers player Okare Emesu, whose discipline and work ethic moulded him.
“I admired Emesu a lot. He was much disciplined and his work ethic was out of this world,” he says.
He adds: “He never argued with the referees or engaged in much talk during the game.”
To up-and-coming players, Samuel emphasizes on discipline as the only tool that will keep them in the game longer and guarantee success.
And as he approaches the twilight of his playing career, he is working on his transition to coaching.
“My dream is to become a successful coach and lead our national team to greater heights,” he says.
“But it has to start somewhere and I’m now working with students. My aim is to work closely with them and become a competent coach,” he insists.
He is also looking forward to helping professionalise basketball in Tanzania.
“Right now, playing basketball is just a hobby, but we need to move from that and make it a profession,” he points out.