How South Sudan basketball continues to stun Africa under Luol Deng – FIBA ​​Basketball World Cup 2023 Africa Zone Qualifiers

JUBA (South Sudan) – When Luol Deng took his South Sudan team to their first continental outing in Nairobi in 2020, he could not have imagined what joy it would bring across the continent and the world at large.

Just over two years after assuming the helm of the South Sudanese Basketball Federation, the impact he has created has been significant and the team’s performance extremely satisfying.

After being elected unopposed as head of the federation in 2019, Deng said: “I am very proud, excited and grateful to be the president of our new federation. I am honored to join not only the federation, but also what is happening in Africa.”

It was a gesture of respect from the home basketball fraternity as they sought to begin building a basketball dynasty.

“I don’t see it as just going to take the national team to the promised land,” he said after being elected.

New secretary Marier Anyuat has praised the two-time NBA All-Star who represented Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.

“Deng’s return home is a big step for all of South Sudan. Basketball is only a small part of what we can do, however, the sky has no limit for us. “, he said then.

With a wealth of experience gained from playing in the NBA for 15 years, Deng got off to a flying start. He played a big role in the rise of South Sudanese basketball.

His involvement with the team completely changed things for their nation. He knows how to motivate and get the best out of his players.

“We learn so much from him. He treats us very well and wants us to give our best,” explained Kuany Kuany, one of the pillars of the team.

Deng, born in Wau, a town in northwestern South Sudan, uses basketball to change lives back home. His involvement with the team completely changed things for their nation.

“Having Luol Deng as our head coach is very important and a critical part of our success. Not only because of the great wealth and knowledge he brings to basketball, but also because of the belief and confidence that he breathes life into the team through team preparation,” Kuany noted.

Many believe that the South Sudan fairy tale has only just begun and it is only a matter of time before the Bright Stars can stamp their authority in Africa.

This was manifested in Nairobi in January 2020 during the FIBA ​​AfroBasket 2021 Pre-Qualifying Tournament. This is where South Sudan’s Cinderella story began.

It was their first continental outing and they did not disappoint. Throughout the six tag team championships, Deng was always with his team before and after games.

Going into their decisive match against Kenya, South Sudan were unscathed. They announced their arrival in style dismantling all opposition with ease.

Screamed by their many fans, they instantly scored centenary points in their first five games before losing 74-68 to the hosts in front of a packed Nyayo gymnasium.

Although they didn’t secure a direct ticket to the continental showcase, another opportunity presented itself when FIBA ​​hosted an invitational tournament involving Chad and Cape Verde in Cameroon.

Cape Verde won and joined Egypt, Morocco and Uganda. But once again, luck smiled on them by replacing Algeria who could not participate in the Qualifiers.

They picked up victories over Mali and Rwanda before completing the double against the West Africans to qualify for the continental festival.

South Sudan were among 16 teams that marched in Kigali, Rwanda for the continental festival and the Bright Stars under Royal Ivey’s tutelage shone to an impressive seventh position.

Playing in Group D, they started 20-0 against Cameroon, crushing a humiliating 104-75 defeat at the hands of Senegal before beating Uganda 88-86.

Their opponents from the qualifying round to the quarter-finals were Kenya. They picked up a 60-58 win to avenge Nairobi’s loss before retiring in the quarter-finals losing 80-65 to eventual winners Tunisia.

Next up was the FIBA ​​Basketball World Cup African Qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal. This is where South Sudan made a huge statement.

Playing in Group B, they stunned back-to-back African champions Tunisia 72-64, humiliated Rwanda 68-56 and Cameroon 74-68 joining Ivory Coast as the only unbeaten sides in their groups.

South Sudan are on a rollercoaster ahead of the third window of the African Qualifiers. Morale is high and with the confidence they show, take them down at your peril.

With thousands of players around the world to choose from, Africa hasn’t seen a thing yet. Like a rumbling volcano, South Sudan is about to explode and when they finally do, all remember one man: Luol Deng.


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