Gilas’ Rhenz Abando draws praise from South Sudan’s Carlik Jones
MANILA, Philippines — South Sudan’s NBA player Carlik Jones was a rebound shy of becoming the first player to have a triple-double in the Fiba World Cup.
While Jones got the spotlight, he also shared some of it with Gilas Pilipinas’ young gun Rhenz Abando, who was tasked to contain the Chicago Bulls guard.
Jones still delivered an impressive performance with 17 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds to propel South Sudan to an 87-68 win over the Philippines in their classification match on Thursday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
But Jones still gave props to Abando, who didn’t score but made his presence felt on the defensive end.
Abando had three rebounds and three blocks, including a rejection on Jones’ layup to start the game.
“It’s ball pressure the whole game. Big shoutout to him, man. I think he played well, he defended well. I try to put him in as much ball screens as he could to relieve some of that pressure and so to get other guys open. I think he played well,” the South Sudan star told reporters shortly after their second win in their maiden World Cup campaign.
Besides Abando, Jones, the current G-League MVP of the Bulls’ affiliate Windy City, also commended the second half fightback of Gilas.
“To be honest, I live for those kind of games. I feel like those are the best games to be in. We were tested in that third quarter. The team Philippines came out strong and hit a couple of threes. But I feel like our fans were pretty loud as well. And as a unit, we stuck together and we handled that adversity for those few minutes. We fought back and we stuck with it. A huge shoutout to the team for being resilient,” said the 25-year-old Jones.
Jones doesn’t regret missing the chance to become the first men’s player to finish with a triple-double in the Fiba World Cup as all he wanted was to win the game for his country and keep their bid alive for an outright berth in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“My mentality coming to the game was just to be the best player on the floor and just do whatever it takes to get a win. I know we sometimes lacked in defense and rebounding so I know we needed to rebound, push the pace, get stops,” Jones said. “One thing I love to do is to get my teammates going, once everybody’s going it makes it easier for me. My biggest thing is just to lead on both ends of the floor. God’s willing I was able to play well tonight.”
“As big time as that is, I just want to give a huge shout out to my coaches, my teammates who every night trusted me to lead and to be myself and I wanna shout out to the South Sudan fans,” he added.
South Sudan coach Royal Ivey, a former NBA player, was all praise for Jones.
“Fourteen assists and one turnover, that’s what point guards do. They lead, they make everybody else better on the court and that’s what he did tonight for the world to see,” he said.
South Sudan, which has two wins in four games, caps its first-ever World Cup campaign against fellow African team, Angola, which holds a 1-3 record, in a crucial match for an Olympic spot on Saturday.
Jones vows to leave everything on the floor to continue making history for his country.
“It’s definitely an important game. We have to respect every opponent. Everybody’s here for a reason. Good. Everybody’s pros. You have to respect everybody but I’m a guy who enjoys wins when we get them,” he said. “We’re one step closer to our goal, qualifying for the Olympics.”