South Sudan’s quest for a maiden stint in the FIBA AfroBasket is back on track with a three-nation invitational tournament to be played from October 22-24 in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde.
After missing out at an initial shot at reaching the qualifying event for the 2021 continental bonanza during the Pre-Qualifiers in January, the South Sudanese are hoping to redeem themselves in Yaounde.
The winner of the tournament will complete Group E of the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers, which consists of Morocco, Egypt and Uganda.
“We want to make things right,” South Sudan coach Ajou Deng told FIBA.basketball. “In the last tournament we believe we played very well but Kenya were better than us and they made it through to the next round.”
Ajou Deng’s optimism is buoyed by his revamped squad that’s been reinforced by fresh legs and players plying their trade in Australia, the United Kingdom and in the USA.
The team’s locally based players had been gearing up for a month in South Sudan’s capital Juba but the 42-year-old tactician believes the arrival of the side’s foreign cast will provide ammunition to the South Sudanese as they look forward to edging Cape Verde and Chad.
“Now we have another opportunity and we’re hoping to take advantage of that and get to the next round,” Deng said.
“We are just trying to concentrate on ourselves and we have players who’ve come in from all around the world.
“We have some really good lads in the team and this is a very important stage for us. That’s why we are staying positive.
“We don’t have any pressure because we have a group that’s working with one ambition – winning.
“For us that’s a very good thing. The players have been working hard and are selfless.
“No one is concerned about the game time because we just have the same goal which is winning this invitational tournament and for me that’s a good thing heading into the competition.
“The players see this as an opportunity to do something special for themselves and for the country.”
South Sudan will be matching up Cape Verde and Chad in this invitational tournament with both nations having a wealth of experience on the African scene.
But while the South Sudanese are very unconcerned by both side’s previous achievements, they, however, admit the talent within these squads is fascinating.
“We really don’t know the rosters from the other teams but they are very good sides,” said Deng.
“They have a lot of good players and whoever they’re bringing to the court will be an amazing side to play.”
South Sudan’s determination to punch their ticket for the qualifying tournament is triggered by the impact an appearance at the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 will have on the world’s youngest nation.
“It’s very important for us as a nation and we’re looking forward to it especially with the number of basketball players we have.
“People are looking forward to seeing us win and see something positive come out of various struggles we’ve had.
“With the right program and the right mentality, the future is bright for South Sudan basketball but we have a role to play to make this work.
“Our country is only nine years old and we’re trying to do the best we can to prosper the game back home. It’s evident that getting to the qualifying tournament and hopefully the FIBA AfroBasket will have a great impact at home,” Deng concluded.