South Sudan basks in 'earned' glory at Fiba World Cup with Olympic stint in sight | Inquirer Sports

South Sudan basks in ‘earned’ glory at Fiba World Cup with Olympic stint in sight

/ 08:02 PM September 01, 2023

South Sudan in the Fiba World Cup in Manila

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

MANILA, Philippines — South Sudan remains hungry for more as it looks to book a ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics in its final Fiba World Cup game against Angola on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

From joining Fiba just a decade ago, the Bright Stars made waves in their World Cup debut in Manila by winning two games including an 87-68 win over Gilas Pilipinas in the classification round on Thursday.

Despite falling short of reaching the second round after finishing a 1-2 record in Group B, South Sudan is a win closer to achieving another dream — a ticket to its first-ever trip to the Olympic games.

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‘WE EARNED THIS’

Coach Royal Ivey knew that his squad had come a long way from being a Zone 5 team in the Fiba Afrobasket qualifiers six years ago to becoming one of the 32 competitors in the world.

“I told my guys I think the first game, there’s no such thing as coincidence or luck. We earned it. We don’t deserve it, we earned everything. We came and we competed from Zone 5 to now,” Ivey said in the postgame press conference. “My guys are resilient. They know how to work. They pushed for it, they fought day in and day out, and we got here because of the hard work, the sweat, and the equity we put in every day. Now, we’re reaping the rewards.”

But Ivey, a former NBA player-turned-Houston Rockets assistant coach, continues to thirst for bigger achievements as the South Sudanese gun to become the best African team in the Fiba World Cup when they take on the Angolans, who hold a 1-3 record, in their final classification game.

“It’s not over. We got another game on Saturday and our guys are not content. We want more,” said Ivey, who has fellow ex-NBA player and South Sudan Basketball Federation president Luol Deng on his coaching staff.

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South Sudan coach Royal Ivey.

South Sudan coach Royal Ivey. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

The World Cup debutant is on top of the African teams with a 2-2 record tied with Group N’s Egypt at Mall of Asia Arena, leading Angola of Group M, Cape Verde of Group O in Okinawa, and Ivory Coast of Group P in Jakarta, who are all tied at 1-3 record.

Ivey praised his players, led by Carlik Jones’ almost triple-double performance of 17 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds to overcome the Philippines with the help of Wenyen Gabriel’s 11 points and 12 rebounds and Nuni Omot’s clutch plays to finish with 13 markers. 

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“Carlik’s been great for us. He’s our leader, he’s our quarterback on and off the court. He’s a great addition. The guys love him, I love him. He’s a true leader and that’s what leaders do. They bring home the fight. He led us to victory today. He put us on his back and we just rode the wave,” the South Sudan coach said.

“Kudos to Wenyen Gabriel, he had a double-double. Nuni Omot showed up in the fourth quarter. It was a collective effort from my guys.”

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TAGS: Fiba World Cup, south sudan

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