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Luol to coach the boys at the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers

Author: Kelly Abale | Published: Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Luol Deng, SSBF boss | Credit | Courtesy

South Sudan Basketball Federation President Luol Deng will coach the senior men’s national team at the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers in the Rwandan capital from November 25-29.

The former Chicago Bulls forward has his work cut out as the world’s youngest sovereign state looks to find a place at the high table of African basketball.

The national team

“Sometimes, we forget that he is a global superstar. Today, we were reminded when after our friendly game against Kenya, two guys ran up to him to take a photo,” says Kuany Kuany, one of South Sudan’s three co-captains.

“We are learning so much from him. He treats us very well and wants us to give our very best.”

South Sudan entered the Pre-Qualifiers in January in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and announced their arrival on the scene in style with four convincing wins registering centuries in all. However, a date with hosts Kenya ended their unbeaten run 74-68.

The country also took part in Pre-Qualifiers in Yaoundé, Cameroon in October. A 100-69 win over Chad and 91-85 loss to Cape Verde was not enough to earn them a place in Group E with Egypt, Morocco and Uganda.

However, the withdrawal of Algeria from the Qualifiers in Kigali game South Sudan the opportunity to participate in the tournament which kick off on Wednesday.

Naturally, the tallest population on the continent, analysts are pitting them to dominate the hoops game in the next five years and their journey starts now. Whether they can fit the billing is a matter of time. The atmosphere in camp is that of a yearning for success.

While speaking at the team camp on Tuesday, Deng said his federation will take every opportunity which comes there way.

“We take the opportunity that came to us. We have been building and we knew about coming here about a week ago. We are looking forward to it and it is a great chance for us to qualify,” he added.

One of South Sudan’s three captains Teny Puot said: “This is a blessing for us. Life does not give you this many opportunities so we are looking forward to utilizing this one as much as we can. The guys are ready. We have been training and we are excited as well. This is a great chance for our country. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we have to make it count.”

South Sudan find themselves in a tough group with former AfroBasket champions Nigeria, Mali and hosts Rwanda. To qualify for the final tournament, they must finish among the top three.

The weight of expectations from their fans back home is evident on social media and the players according to Kuany understand what is at stake.

“This is what our lives have been about. Whatever comes our way, we take it. Since we were young, we have grown knowing that we have to keep pushing no matter what. The fact that we are here, we have to be resilient. We need to take care of business,” Kuany further pointed out.

South Sudan will be treating every game like a final and indeed have their work cut out.

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