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Bulloch's Germany connection

BA exchange students excel on and off the court

Bulloch's Germany connection

Bulloch's Germany connection

Bulloch Academy senior guard Miriam R...

    The pressure of playing a sport at a high level while maintaining good grades can be a daunting task for many high school athletes, but a pair of Bulloch Academy basketball players are doing both while they are thousands of miles from home.

    Senior forward Themba Twala and sophomore guard Miriam Rasanberger both come from Germany and are at Bulloch Academy through the International Experience exchange student program. Twala is in Statesboro for his second school year while Rasanberger is here for the first time.
    “I had a couple of friends who came to America a few years ago,” said Twala. “They liked the experience, so I also wanted to give it a try.”
    “The person who runs the agency is a friend of my mother’s,” said Rasanberger. “I learned a lot about the program and it got me very interested in coming over here.”
    The good grades and character of both have helped them to excel in Bulloch Academy’s classrooms, but they have also brought their talent on the basketball court across the Atlantic Ocean. Both have seen plenty of time on the floor as Twala has been a force for the Gators in each of his two seasons while Rasanberger has been a key contributor for the BA girls’ varsity- and B-teams squads.
    Although the game is far from new to them — both have been playing basketball since they were very young — the style and intensity of basketball in the United States provided the same sort  of culture shock as living with a host family in a new country half a world away.
    “It was crazy at first,” said Rasanberger. “In Germany, not that many people would come to watch us play. For our first game (at Bulloch Academy), it seemed like the entire town was in the gym. That was a little scary, but that also makes it more fun.”
    The time and effort put into the game has also been a drastic change of pace.
    “On my teams in Germany, it was always on each player to figure out how to make himself better,” said Twala. “Here, the coaches teach us a lot more. We also work a lot harder. I never had weight training for basketball before.”
    All of that extra strength and stamina gained from the additional practice and training is now vital for Twala as he attempts to come back from an injury. Twala dislocated his right shoulder while diving for a loose ball last week and is trying to make it back in time to help the Gators as they come down the stretch of the regular season.
    “At first, it just hurt really bad and I was worried,” said Twala. “Now I’m just a little angry about it and I want to get out there and play.”
For Rasanberger, the added pressures of a more rigorous training schedule have only been compounded by the Lady Gators’ success as each win — the BA girls currently sit at 18-3 — has bolstered their Top-10 state ranking and made the target on their
    When the season — and his days as a high school career — comes to an end, Twala will continue to stay in basketball while racking up even more mileage. His next stop will be South Africa, where he will begin a coaching stint with a youth team.
    “I get to see even more of the world,” said Twala. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m very excited for it.”
    After the school year, Rasanberger will return to Germany for her final two years of schooling.
    “I’ll be sad to leave, but it will be great to go back and see my family,” she said. “This has been such a great experience. I’m glad for all of the friends that I’ve made and for the experience playing basketball here at Bulloch Academy. I would recommend it to anyone back home that thinks they would want to try it.”
    Both the boys and girls will be in action tonight — though Twala remains sidelined due to his injury — as the Gators host Westminster in a Region 4-AAA showdown.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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