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South Sudan earns Olympic berth as top African team at FIBA World Cup – My Blog

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Brian WindhorstESPN Senior AuthorSep 2, 2023, 08:49 AM ET4 Minute Learn

MANILA, Philippines — In an indelible second of this FIBA World Cup, South Sudan earned the nation’s first Olympic berth in any sport Saturday and did so with a group full of refugees and the kids of refugees from the wartorn nation.

The Vibrant Stars, as they’re identified, gained the bid allotted for Africa with a 10178 victory over Angola, triggering tears and hugs from gamers as a number of dozen followers waved the younger nation’s flag.

They gained the prize with a 32 document in Manila to outlast all different African groups simply three years after former NBA AllStar Luol Deng took over this system, which he has largely funded personally and crammed by recruiting gamers with South Sudanese heritage.

South Sudan goes to the Paris Olympics as the highest African finisher on the FIBA World Cup after rolling previous Angola 10178.AP

“It is an unbelievable story. It is an underdog story that, not only for the South Sudanese, not only for Africa, however for the remainder of the world,” Deng mentioned as he fought off tears. “It is a feelgood story that majority of individuals can relate to. It is such a novel achievement as a result of it is past basketball.”

Japan additionally joined the Olympic subject Saturday because the highestranked World Cup group from Asia, clinching its bid with an 8071 win over Cape Verde.

Three summers in the past, Deng tapped former NBA participant and longtime good friend Royal Ivey to be the group’s head coach. Ivey, an assistant with the Houston Rockets, began practices on concrete flooring and outside courts that had been typically flooded.

The group practiced and performed in locations from Kenya to Tunisia to Australia to earn World Cup qualification for the primary time and open the door for the achievement.

“It has been a humbling journey. I had heartaches, I’ve a number of ebbs and flows, and it is an incredible feeling proper now,” mentioned Ivey, a 10year NBA veteran who mentored Deng when he got here to the identical highschool in New Jersey. “A 12 months in the past we had been working towards outdoors with eagles flying round whereas we had been working towards and the courts had been flooded. Wish to go from there to return and play in entrance of those followers within the Philippines, and I am on cloud 9 proper now.”

The group is loaded with inspirational tales past Deng, whose household left Sudan for England when he was a baby. Because the midNineteen Fifties, there was a sequence of civil wars in Sudan and South Sudan, which grew to become impartial in 2011, which have displaced tens of millions.

NBA participant Wenyen Gabriel, who had 15 factors and 10 rebounds Saturday, was born in Sudan, however his household fled to Egypt when he was 2 weeks outdated. He later got here to Manchester, New Hampshire, one of many sanctuary cities that took in a lot of his teammates.

Nuni Omot, who had 17 factors within the victory, was born in a Sudanese refugee camp in Kenya earlier than later transferring to Minnesota. He performed within the NBA G League final season.

Kacuol Jok, who had three factors within the sport, was born in Sudan earlier than his household fled to Uganda after each his grandfather and father had been killed in civil wars. He ultimately moved to Des Moines, Iowa, and later starred on the College of Iowa.

One of many tales of the match was 7foot2 16yearold Khaman Maluach, who’s already thought to be a prospect for the 2025 NBA draft. Maluach, who had 5 factors and 4 rebounds in opposition to Angola, was a refugee dwelling in Uganda when he was found and has been growing at NBA Academy Africa in Senegal.

“This has been like a film,” Maluach mentioned.

Quite a few different gamers had been from households that moved to the U.S., Australia or Canada. A lot of the group got here collectively this summer time, as simply six gamers had performed for the nationwide group in previous competitions.

“It has been superb; it is all a brand new expertise for everyone,” mentioned former Philadelphia 76er Marial Shayok, who had 18 factors within the win. “It is a new nation, it is a new group, and we’re all simply attempting to take all of it in as a gaggle and simply type of develop collectively.”

Guard Carlik Jones, who performs for the Chicago Bulls and was the G League Participant of the 12 months final season for the Windy Metropolis Bulls, has been one of many stars of the World Cup. He completed it off with 26 factors and a recordtying 15 assists.

And he will probably be taking his sport to Paris subsequent 12 months, the place South Sudan will probably be considered one of simply 12 groups that qualify.

“It means the world, it means the world to the folks again dwelling,” mentioned Jones, who was born in Cincinnati to Sudanese mother and father. “It is only a blessing.”

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