Qualified Team Focus - South Sudan: Bright Stars ready to shine in World Cup debut
MIES (Switzerland) - The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Draw presented by Wanda, will be held in Manila, Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.
Here is the number 62 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, World Cup debutants South Sudan.
Sieh dir diesen Beitrag auf Instagram an
How did they qualify
South Sudan went into their first-ever African Qualifiers on a high after not only reaching the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 but then being awarded a win over Cameroon by forfeit and beating Uganda and Kenya to reach the Quarter-Finals, where there were defeated by eventual winners Tunisia.
The Bright Stars were then a Cinderella story throughout the African Qualifiers, having only been founded as a nation in 2011 and joining FIBA in December 2013.
South Sudan were led by two coaches during the World Cup qualification: the first and final windows by federation president and former NBA All-Star Luol Deng and the middle two windows by American Royal Ivey, an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets.
And the Bright Stars made history by reaching their first World Cup with two games to spare.
South Sudan did not play in the November 2021 window with their Group B starting in February 2022 with games being played in Senegal. South Sudan started with history right away, beating Rwanda 68-56 in their first-ever game in an African Qualifiers with Kuany Ngor Kuany scoring 18 points.
Luol Deng's team followed that with a shocking 72-64 victory over reigning AfroBasket champions Tunisia, who had beaten South Sudan 80-65 in the continental championship just five months earlier. Nuni Omot netted 20 points to snap Tunisia's winning streak that dated back to February 2020.
South Sudan finished the first window with another win, beating Cameroon 74-68 as Anyiarbany 'Jackson' Makoi had 25 points and Omot scored 20 points.
Ivey arrived to coach for the July 2022 window in Rwanda and the team knocked off hosts Rwanda 73-63 to become the first team to advance to the Second Round. Bul Kuol scored 16 points and Deng Acuoth chipped in 15 rebounds.
The Bright Stars then beat African champions Tunisia again, Omot scoring 16 points and Sunday Dech collecting 15 points and 8 assists in a 75-61 victory.
South Sudan completed a perfect run in the First Round by downing Cameroon 67-56 with Omot and Kuol both picking up 17 points.
South Sudan had Ivey as coach for the start of the Second Round as well in the August 2022 window in Tunisia. The Bright Stars finally were beaten in the Group F opener, falling to Senegal 69-66 in a game with 11 lead changes.
South Sudan bounced back in fine fashion with a 101-58 blowout of Congo DR as Majok Deng poured in 19 points.
And Ivey's team added another impressive victory in knocking off Egypt 85-65 thanks to Dech tallying 18 points and 5 assists.
Luol Deng was back at the helm as coach for the February 2023 window, being played in Egypt. South Sudan won a thriller over Senegal 83-75 in a game with 10 lead changes and came back from 11 points down to qualify for the World Cup. South Sudan became the first team in African history to reach the World Cup in their first attempt. Omot had 26 points and 8 rebounds and Dech contributed 7 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists.
South Sudan finished strong as they had five players in double figures topped by Majok Deng's 18 points in an 82-61 win over Congo DR. And the Bright Stars ended the qualification campaign by beating Egypt 97-77 with a 25-9 fourth quarter after 15 lead changes. Majok Deng and Kuany both scored 22 points to lead the way.
Best result at the World Cup
South Sudan will be making history in Asia this summer with their first appearance in the World Cup. The country was only founded in 2011 and joined the FIBA family in 2013.
Last World Cup appearances
South Sudan did not take part in the qualification for the 2019 World Cup since it included only the 16 teams from FIBA AfroBasket 2017. The Bright Stars had a 1-2 record in Zone 5 for third place of four teams in the 2017 AfroBasket Qualifiers.
South Sudan playing at the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Qualifiers
Players to watch
South Sudan have thrown down the gauntlet ahead of their debut FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign by adding Los Angeles Lakers forward Wenyen Gabriel to the squad.
The Khartoum-born Gabriel, 26, appeared in 68 regular season games this past season for the Lakers, averaging 5.5 points and 4.2 rebounds. He was on the play-off roster as Los Angeles made a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals before falling to eventual NBA champions Denver.
South Sudan have point guard Carlik Jones, who appeared in seven games for the Chicago Bulls. The squad also has shooting guard Marial Shayok, a second-round draft pick in 2019 by Philadelphia.
Shayok suited up for the Maine Celtics this past season and averaged 16.8 points per game. He made 79 of his 178 attempts from behind the arc.
Leading players for South Sudan the past few years that remain in the group are Nuni Omot, Deng Acouth, Majok Deng, Mareng Gatkouth, Sunday Dech, Koch Bar and Kuany Kuany.
Omot's 15.1 points per game led the Bright Stars as they won 11 of 12 games in the qualifiers while Kuany Kuany, who has played for the team since it began gathering on the outdoor courts in Juba, South Sudan, was the team's leading scorer (11.8 points per game) and rebounder (5.5 rebounds per game).
One player on the roster, Khaman Maluach, is just 16 years old, but is a potential star of the future. Maluach is a 2.13 (7'0") center.
Qualified Team Focus series
Please check the teams we have already broken down. In the past weeks, before the last qualifications that happened in February 2023, we have ordered them by their position in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike:
Spain, Australia, France, Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, Italy, Germany, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, USA, Serbia, Brazil, Venezuela, Montenegro, Puerto Rico, Iran, Dominican Republic, China, Latvia, Mexico, Georgia, Jordan, Japan, Philippines, Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, Lebanon and Egypt.