By John Agok
The South Sudan Basketball Coach Royal Ivey who is also an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, pledged that his team would return with great momentum citing the experiences Tunisia deserved as the defending champion.
The young and vibrant South Sudan basketball team ended its longest run in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) on Thursday following a defeat to the defending Champions, Tunisia, after conceding 80:65 points in quarter-finals.
Ivey told media that they could not buy the experiences Tunisia got as the defending champion and applauded the young team who played them well in the game.
“We cannot buy experiences Tunisia had as the defending champion and I am so appreciative for this young team – We got a lot to be proud of. I told these guys back in the locker room, ‘don’t hold your head,’ they are hurting right now, I am hurting right now, it is a tough loss you know”, he said.
Ivey believed that the future remained bright for the South Sudanese basketball team and therefore they had to accept what they got and had to pledge their gratitude for the opportunity they got to complete at the highest level.
“At the end of the day, we have a bright future. So, we take the good with the bad, the happy with the sad, and show gratitude for the opportunity to compete at a high level,” Ivey added.
Nevertheless, the president of South Sudan Basketball Federation Luol Deng said South Sudan had been through a lot – describing the world’s youngest nation as a place where people never made it to return home at the end of the day.Deng believed that playing basketball might be emotional but it could heal the wounds the country was going through.
“We come from a country that has been through a lot,” the two-time NBA All-Star told media.
Deng, who spent 15 years in the NBA representing Great Britain at international level believed that South Sudanese had perfect heights, genetic and skills to be world renowned basketball players, stressing that all they neededwas an opportunity!
“This game just perfectly fits who we are – it fits our height, it fits our genetics, it fits our skills,” explained the man who fled war in his homeland prior to growing up as a refugee in England.
“We are blessed to have basketball (players) but we just never had the opportunity to expose it and to give our kids the chance to be great at it.”
The defending Champion Tunisia will head to semifinals to meet Cape Verde and Senegal will meet Ivory Coast.
The four winners of quarter-finals will meet for semi-finals on Saturday and winners will advance to final on Sunday. All will be played in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.South Sudan joined FIBA in 2013.