18 - 26
September 2021
12 Lindsey Harding (BLR)
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Lindsey Harding ready to lead South Sudan charge

SACRAMENTO (USA) - There is a new wave sweeping across Africa as more women take up lead coaching roles on court. Lindsey Harding is the new South Sudan women's head coach in the "new normal" movement.

Harding's appointment follows Cote d'Ivoire's Christelle N'Garsanet who became the first Africa-born former female player named head coach of a national team on the continent.

With this new appointment, Harding will be coaching in Africa for the first time and in charge of a "new baby" as the East African nation looks to roll out their women's basketball team for the very first time in the nine-year old history of the world's youngest country. 

The new sheriff in town comes with massive experience having played nine seasons in the WNBA with six different franchises and also played overseas with teams in Cyprus, Turkey, Russia and Lithuania. She represented Belarus at national team level. 

She embarked on a coaching journey that saw her become the NBA's first African American female pro personnel scout for the Philadelphia 76ers and currently works as the development and assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings. 

According to the UNDEFEATED, "Harding became the first black woman to become a full-time NBA scout when the Philadelphia 76ers hired her before the 2018-19 season and right before the playoffs the following season, she became the Sixers' first female assistant coach when she was promoted to player development coach."


Harding spoke to FIBA.basketball in an exclusive interview and said, "Basketball is basketball. No matter who is playing. That is what I want people to understand.

"I played women's basketball at the highest level, coached men at the highest level and now will coach some of the top women's players in the world. All I ever ask from my players is to compete. Every time they step on the court they must compete," she added. 

Her first assignment in charge of this team will be to seek a ticket to the 2021 FIBA Women's AfroBasket set to be held from September 17-26 when the FIBA Africa Zone 5 Qualifiers take place from July 5-10 in Cairo, Egypt.

"Our goal is to always win. We have a lot of talented players around the world. Yes, I have been in touch with some and working on a training camp now," Harding explained. 

South Sudan will have to battle regular faces like hosts Egypt and Kenya who took part in the 2019 FIBA Women's AfroBasket in Senegal, neighbours Uganda who will be seeking to return to the big stage for the first time since 2015 as well as a talented Burundi side. 

EuroBasket semifinalist in 2015, Harding powered Belarus with team-highs 13.8 points and 5 assists at 2016 Rio Olympics

Last month, Awak Kuier was the number two draft pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft and will be plying her trade at Dallas Wings. Kuier, who was born in Egypt to South Sudanese parents moved to Finland with her parents at the age of two. 

And just like Luol Deng - the current South Sudan Basketball Federation president who represented Team Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics - she features for the country of her adoption but Harding believes that there is a lot more talent from where Awak comes from. 


"I know there are many more Awaks in this country. We have to expand our reach throughout South Sudan. People need to know that women playing professional basketball is an option," Harding explained further. 

"It is a way to take care of your family, get an education and travel the world. They will finally have the opportunity to see their young women on a main stage. I am so excited to be the first ever head coach. So many of these players have waited their entire life for this moment. This is a very special time and I feel blessed to be a part of it."

"I am sure that most of the players want to play in the WNBA if they haven't already. I have done everything they want to do and I will do my best to teach them how to get there. The players will all have different experiences but the one thing they have in common is that they are South Sudanese. They will be an inspiration. "

To those close to Deng, her appointment did not come as a surprise. 

She said, "I have known Luol since he was about 18 years old. We were at Duke University at the same time. We have had a relationship since then and I truly believe in his vision and plans he has for the women and basketball in this country. I am so happy to be a part of it."

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Harding, who played at Duke University where she is the only sixth player in ACC history to register 1,298 points, 579 assists, 565 rebounds and 296 steals in a school-record 128 games, was inducted into the Duke Hall of Fame and had her number 10 jersey retired while becoming only the second Duke women's basketball player in history to have her jersey hang in the rafters. 

In 2007, she was named as the Naismith College Player of the Year and in the same year was the number one overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA Draft. 

She went on a nine-year journey featuring for six franchises including Minnesota Lynx, Washington Mystics, Atlanta Dream, Los Angeles Sparks, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury averaging 9.8 points and 4.0 assists. 

With 11 points and 3 assists, Harding helped Belarus beat Nigeria (71-60) at 2016 Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament

For a former player of her quality and experience over the years, Harding is an inspiration to other women looking to break barriers and take charge of teams in Africa and across the world. 

"It is 2021. It is time for change. There are many qualified female coaches who are not given an opportunity to lead. Nobody wants to be put in a box or told what they can or cannot do or simply looked over. I have faith and hope that women will continue to get more opportunities," Harding said. 

For Harding and Deng, the target has been set at qualifying for the continental showpiece in September and plans are underway to assemble a team that can achieve that objective as they seek a place at the high table of African basketball among the big nations like 12-time record champions Senegal, Angola, Nigeria, Mali and Mozambique.