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South Sudan's Bright Stars Ready to Shine in FIBA World Cup Debut

FILE- South Sudanese basketball player, Deng Dut during World Friendly International game between South Sudan and Jordan in Quanzhou, China, Aug. 22, 2023.

NAIROBI — As the countdown to the FIBA Basketball World Cup commences, anticipation is high for the inaugural appearance of South Sudan's basketball team, the Bright Stars.

Back in February, the Bright Stars etched their mark in history by triumphing over Senegal in the FIBA Basketball World Cup African Qualifiers, securing their place in the upcoming global tournament.

Arou Ramadan Chan, deputy secretary-general of the South Sudan Basketball Federation, affirmed the team's readiness for their first international endeavor.

He highlighted the strategic reinforcement of the team, which now boasts NBA players Wenyen Gabriel, Carlik Jones, Marial Shayok, Emmanuel Akot, and Mangok Mathiang, who have all contributed to various national teams.

"As the tournament progresses, you get to add more experienced players," Arou said, emphasizing the team's evolution as they ascend through the levels. "We did our level best to bring everybody onboard to maintain the team we had in the qualifiers, and then we added some of our big boys in the NBA, who couldn't come back then because of their commitments to different clubs and they were in season."

Head coach Royal Ivey will be working with a core group that includes captain Kuany Kuany, Nuni Omot, Deng Acuoth, and Mareng Gatkuoth, all of whom played in the African qualifiers.

Arou confidently expressed the team's eagerness to represent their nation: "The feeling is beautiful, it's so positive. The boys are very excited, they are pumped up, they are very ready to represent the flag, our nation and they can't wait for the day to come. They are mentally, physically, psychologically they are ready."

Amidst optimism, the team acknowledges the challenge of the group stages. Arou maintained a positive outlook.

"We leave everything on the court and by the time the last whistle goes you know that you have given your best, given your 100 percent, 110, 120% and after that the results will speak for themselves. Win or lose, our boys will give their 100%, and we are just hoping for good results but we have a good team," he told VOA.

Sunday Dech, a Bright Stars player, credits last week's pre-World Cup friendlies for solidifying team unity in preparation for the impending tough matches.

The South Sudanese fans are rallying behind the Bright Stars, with expectations running high.

Supporter Agaw Kothia Kuany said fans are proud of the national team. "We wish them all the best. We are going to show the world that we are existing."

Kenyi Fredrick, a resident of Juba town, predicts that the Bright Stars will astound the world.

"All the best to our basketball national team, we look forward to celebrating your great victory in the next few weeks to come. It means a lot to us as young people in the Republic of South Sudan," he said.

Angola, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast and Egypt are the four other teams representing Africa at the FIBA World Cup 2023.

The South Sudan Bright Stars, who joined FIBA in 2013, two years after the nation's independence, will make their global debut at the World Cup on Aug. 26.

The current champions are Spain, who defeated Argentina in the 2019 tournament.