The South Sudan national basketball team, fondly known as the Bright Stars, has garnered attention in recent years for its impressive ascent in international basketball, earning a spot in the Olympics.
However, basketball legend Luol Deng, now serving as the president of the South Sudan Basketball Federation, unveiled another moniker during the Draw for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments 2024 on Monday night – the Giants of the Nile.
Deng, a two-time NBA All-Star and 2012 Olympian with Great Britain, showcased his significance at the Draw, not only for his illustrious playing career but also for his contributions to South Sudan as a leader and occasionally as a coach.
Ahead of the Draw, he expressed relief that South Sudan had already secured a place in the Olympic tournament, emphasizing the challenges of the qualification process.
“We went into the World Cup with a mindset that we didn’t want to go through that qualification system,” Deng remarked, referring to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments 2024. “I know how difficult it is. There are only four spots left. It’s going to be very, very difficult for any other African team to make it.”
While acknowledging the competitive landscape that includes teams like Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Angola, and Cameroon in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments 2024, Deng expressed a preference for Ivory Coast to secure a spot.
Notably, Deng made this statement before the Draw, where Ivory Coast, along with Puerto Rico, Mexico, Lithuania, Italy, and Bahrain, were revealed as part of the tournament.
Despite the formidable competition, Deng is pleased that the Bright Stars, or the “Giants of the Nile,” as he affectionately referred to them, have already earned a place in the Olympic tournament alongside teams like Germany, Serbia, Canada, USA, Australia, Japan, and hosts France.
Their qualification was sealed with a victory over Angola in the World Cup’s final game.