Things are starting to come together for South Sudan who now sit in second place in Group D of the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers at the just-concluded first window at the Kigali Arena.
The Bright Stars, who came into this tournament as a replacement for Algeria that pulled out because of the closure of their airspace as the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, have exceeded the expectations of many.
A journey that started this January in Kenya at the Pre-Qualifiers saw them lose to the hosts in the final game and later another failed attempt at the last set of Pre-Qualifiers in Cameroon in October almost spelled their fate. However, a blessing in disguise presented itself in Algeria’s absence. South Sudan did not look back.
“Since the federation began under Luol Deng’s guidance, the success we have had only shows the tip of the ice bag in terms of the potential South Sudan has in the basketball world. We have numerous players playing in the top leagues in the world and we know if we all come together, we can compete with anyone in Africa and the world,” explained the team’s captain Teny Puot.
“Just like coach Flo said, we are exactly where we are supposed to be and have to take care of business here to end up where we want to be. It is our first time here and based on what we have seen and shown, we believe and know that we deserve to be at the AfroBasket next year and for the future years to come.”
South Sudan have one foot into the AfroBasket 2021 in Rwanda
Puot, who led by example netting an average of 7.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and two assists per game, told FIBA.basketball that, “It is an honor and privilege to be picked as one of the co-captains to lead the South Sudan National Team especially at our first ever AfroBasket Qualifiers. I believe that we have a great group of guys where any of us can be the captain but to be picked as one of three captains is something special.”
The energy in the team is that of determination and a yearning to cross new waters to discover their untapped potential not just in Africa but on the global scene.
With professional players across the world in different leagues from Australia to Europe and USA, South Sudan is looking to build on their performance in Kigali.
Deng, who enjoyed being in the coaching seat said, “We want to compete. This group has a lot of good teams so we want to go out and compete as best as we can. We want to let people know that we belong here.”
“We want to change the story and narrative about us. We want people to start talking about what we have and what we can bring to the table when it comes to basketball,” he explained further.
The second window will be played in February 2021. For all the other four groups, the top three teams over the two windows will automatically qualify for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021. However, the case is different for Group D which has hosts Rwanda.
In case, Rwanda is ranked first, second or third in this group, then the three highest-placed teams will make it to the final tournament from Group D. This also means that the best fourth-placed team in all the five groups, based on the classification rules of the Official Basketball Rules, shall obtain the last spot for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021, making a total of 16 teams.
However, should Rwanda finish in fourth position, all Group D teams will qualify for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021.