22 November, 2021
28 February, 2023
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South Sudan captain Kuany Kuany warns - ''The job is not yet done''

ALEXANDRIA (Egypt) - One thing that South Sudan team captain Kuany Ngor Kuany is certain of is that there is work to be done for the remainder of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers.

There are three games left, and South Sudan are not just top of Group F with an 8-1 mark, but they and are one win away from qualifying for the 2023 World Cup in Asia later this year.

If they beat Senegal on Friday, February 24 in Alexandria, they will make history by becoming the first country in Africa to qualify for the World Cup in their first attempt. 

"We're currently in a good spot, however the job is not yet done," Kuany acknowledged in an interview with FIBA.basketball.

Kuany Ngor Kuany is seen here in action against Cameroon

"We need to come to Egypt with the same hunger, mindset and drive to play and win all games, despite needing only one to qualify," he continued.

South Sudan will go up Senegal, Egypt and DR Congo in their last games in Alexandria from February 24-26.

So, how did a nation that became independent in 2011 and only entered their major continental tournament in 2020 has taken African basketball by a storm? 

Self-belief and will to rewrite African basketball narrative seem to have contributed to South Sudan's rise.

Asked to reflect on South Sudan’s journey in African basketball over the past 4 years, Kuany replied: "Over the last 3 years, South Sudan’s basketball team has meteorically risen in the African basketball scene. Many may think this was just luck but it's due to all the hard work behind the scenes by management, staff, coaches and players, as well as the tremendous support behind the team."

He continued: "The rise of the national team can be greatly attributed to the leadership of Luol Deng as the president of the South Sudan Basketball Federation (SSBF) and his contributions both on and off the court."
                   Kuany Kuany in action during a FIBA AfroBasket Pre-Qualifier game against Kenya on January 18, 2020 in Nairobi 

For a team that needed to step up against regional rivals like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia to be in a position of beating African champions Tunisia twice in the African Qualifiers and push the likes of Egypt and Senegal to the limits, that shows how far South Sudan came from.

And bringing together foreign-based South Sudanese players has massively boosted the team's potential. 

Even Kuany acknowledges it. "South Sudan has always had numerous players around the world playing professionally and at the collegiate level. However we lacked the resources, organisation and leadership to bring that under one management and use it to achieve our objectives. Luol Deng was able to bring all of that together. "

"Once he [Luol Deng] took over, the federation was then able to get the ground rolling and start at the [Africa] Zone 5 qualifiers in Nairobi, on January 2020. I was fortunate enough to be amongst the twelve players selected to represent the country and this was the first time we showed the world what South Sudan basketball was capable of achieving."

"Although we lost the final game to Kenya, we knew we had something special and only a matter of time before we can make some noise in the African basketball scene."

And reaching the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA AfroBasket in 2021 was the loudest message South Sudan could have sent out to Africa about their intentions on the continent.

"We had a great training camp with new coaches (Royal Ivey, Fortune Solomon and Joe Mantegna). We had a great first show at the AfroBasket, however, finished 3-2, and lost to eventual back-to-back champions Tunisia in the Quarter-Finals."

"The World Cup qualifiers came up fast and we were started our campaign 3-0 and first in our group. This really gave us a huge head start and just like the AfroBasket, gave us the opportunity to achieve something that's never been done before in our country’s history.

"So we came back hungry and played hard the next round and were able to improve to 6-0. This was when the buzz around South Sudan basketball really grew and we started to see a lot of fans come to games and the support back home growing to an exponential level."

One more win in the World Cup qualifiers, and, it's a new chapter in South Sudan's country’s basketball history. 

"Qualifying for our first ever World Cup would be a dream come true and mean the world to our country. We're a young country with a lot to offer to the world and this would be one of the things that'll bring great publicity and positivity to South Sudan," Kuany concluded.