South Sudan’s basketball future is a teenager who idolizes Jokic | Inquirer Sports

South Sudan’s basketball future is a teenager who idolizes Jokic

/ 12:02 AM August 29, 2023

South Sudan's Khaman Maluach in a Fiba World Cup game.

South Sudan’s Khaman Maluach in a Fiba World Cup game. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIREr.net

MANILA, Philippines—After making history for his home country, Khaman Maluach could have celebrated their sweet, sweet victory like a teenager on prom night.
Yet, in a stoic manner that underscored wisdom beyond his years, Maluach took time out to talk to members of the media.

Nothing screamed “blood, sweat and tears” more than the efforts of the whole squad and the young gun to bring South Sudan its first-ever win in the Fiba World Cup.

At 16 years old, Maluach is the third youngest player to compete in Fiba’s global stage. So when he was asked about his thoughts on the win, he put on his best 2009 Kobe Bryant impersonation for a response.

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“I feel like this is just the beginning. I feel like we have more [things] we can do,” Maluach said.

Back in 2009, the Los Angeles Lakers took a 2-0 lead over the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals when Bryant’s legendary “job’s not finished,” line was uttered in front of a serious, focused press conference.

Maluach understands the enormity of his team’s achievement.

“I grew up in Uganda, a country nearby (South Sudan) but this (win) is a message to every kid out there. Impossible is nothing, with hard work and determination, you can do it.”

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The promising NBA prospect only had a point in their 89-69 victory over China on Monday but with his 7-foot-1 frame, Maluach held his own against the more experienced Chinese frontline.

With Peng Zhou, Zhou Qi and Li Kai-Er looking like New York skyscrapers in the paint, Maluach still had six rebounds and two blocks, showing that he’s ready for even the biggest challenge inside the hardwood.

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Maluach is no stranger to the bright lights.

Last year in the Africa Champions Club, Maluach posted norms of 10 points and 8.7 rebounds per game which, expectedly, got the attention of NBA scouts who are eyeing the future of the league.

MOLDING THE FUTURE

South Sudan in the Fiba World Cup in Manila

South Sudan in the Fiba World Cup in Manila. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

Maluach knows exactly what he needs to do to secure that future just by looking at the NBA landscape.

The overall first picks of the past two NBA Rookie Drafts are Paolo Banchero and Victor Wembenyama, who are 6-foot-10 and 7-foot-3, respectively.

The best player in the professional league at the moment is an all-around, old-school center in the form of 6-foot-11 star Nikola Jokic.

So if the trend continues, the NBA will have a lot of room for the big kid, who has all the right tools to get him there.

Royal Ivey, a dependable role player during his time in the NBA, is the current South Sudan coach. Meanwhile, the country’s basketball federation is headed by Luol

Deng, a British national with South Sudanese roots who once played for the Chicago Bulls.

“It’s important [having them]. They are teaching me a lot. I’m going to use their lessons,” Maulach said.

But the young kid’s inspiration is more current.

“I watch Jokic all the time, I watch most of his games because of his IQ and passing,” he explained.

Whatever happens to the Sudanese kid in the future, one thing is for sure.

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When the history books write about the first South Sudan team to ever win a game in the World Cup, Khaman Maluach will be on that list. Forever.

TAGS: Fiba World Cup, south sudan

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