South Sudan’s head coach, Royal Ivey, remarked that his team exhibited great determination as they secured their inaugural victory at the Basketball World Cup against China on Monday, describing their performance as playing with intense passion.
Ranked 62nd globally, the team managed to sink 15 three-point shots during their match in Manila, leading to an impressive 89-69 triumph. This win not only keeps their aspirations for advancing to the second round alive but also marks a successful debut at the World Cup.
Having gained independence in 2011, South Sudan entered the realm of international basketball a mere six years ago with their inaugural official game.
However, Ivey affirmed that their victory against China, ranked 27th globally, was entirely earned, attributing it to his players’ unwavering commitment to the game plan from the very start until the final buzzer.
“They were resilient, persistent, they had laser-like focus, they followed the game plan and competed at the highest level,” he said.
“They played with emotion, they played with fight, they played with fire. We competed all 40 minutes and we came out with the victory.”
During their tournament debut against Puerto Rico on Saturday, South Sudan held the lead for the majority of the game before ultimately losing in overtime with a score of 101-96.
They replicated their strong start against China, yet this time they managed to maintain their advantage, outscoring their opponents by 10 points in the closing quarter.
Carlik Jones, who achieved 35 points against Puerto Rico, contributed 21 points against China, emerging as the leading scorer for South Sudan in the latter match.
Forward Nuni Omot said the win was “a dream come true”.
“To be able to do this in front of our fans, people watching back at home, it’s been a very emotional day for everyone, getting our first ever World Cup win,” he said.
Securing a victory against Serbia in their concluding group-stage match on Wednesday would enable South Sudan to advance to the next stage.
Ivey emphasized that his team’s contentment with just one victory is nonexistent, and he pledged their unwavering dedication to giving their best effort.
“My guys play free, play together, they stay together whether we’re up 20 or down 20, we don’t flinch.
“We’re going to come out there and give it our best shot.”
Ivey also expressed his admiration for Luol Deng, the former NBA player who has played a pivotal role in orchestrating South Sudan’s ascent as the president of the nation’s basketball federation.
“Luol Deng is the heart and soul of all of this,” Ivey said of Deng, who played in the NBA for 15 years before retiring in 2019.
“He had a great vision, I entrusted in his vision and it all came together.”