‘Beam of Light’: Royal Ivey gets emotional as South Sudan punches bid to 2024 Olympics


Photo: FIBA

Royal Ivey can’t help but turn emotional as his South Sudan team is set to land in the grandest sporting event in the entire world next year.

After rallying his national squad to their biggest win in program history thus far over Angola at their final Group Phase match of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, the 41-year-coach shed his tears as South Sudan took the outright ticket for Africa to head to Paris Olympics.

“This team is a beam of light. Like [what] I keep on saying every postgame, we bring in unity, camaraderie, love, and friendship to this country,” Ivey said after South Sudan wrecked Angola for their final game of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

“This country has only been independent for 12 years. To do this – for Luol Deng to put this all together – this is incredible. This is incredible. 

“Now we here, going to the Olympics, thank you to the people of South Sudan for staying and supporting with us. I love this team. This is a great feeling, I wish I could just bottle it up right now.

For nine days that passed the World Cup, South Sudan has fully captured the hearts and attention of the entire basketball world.

For a nation that only achieved its independence in 2011, the Bright Stars’ program mustered through odds, expectations and geopolitical issues just to land in Manila and qualify for the World Cup.

Under the guidance and support of basketball federations chief Luol Deng,  South Sudan ascended to dominance starting at the World Cup qualifications by breaking through the competition, becoming the first team in African basketball history to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in their first attempt.

“It’s been a humbling journey. I had heartaches, I have a lot of ebbs and flows, and it’s a great feeling right now,” Ivey said.

Powered by reigning NBA G League MVP Carlik Jones, South Sudan turned heads around with their promising type of play in their debut to the international basketball’s biggest stage.

The youthful squad didn’t lose composure despite losing in a faulty manner against Puerto Rico, or even got manhandled by the No. 6 FIBA team in Serbia. 

Instead, the Bright Stars walloped Asian giants in China and the host country Philippines. On Saturday, they picked up their ticket for the Paris Olympic Games alloted for the best African team at the expense of an Angolan team that has been a mainstay in international basketball tournaments from the past.

For Ivey, it has been a long time coming for a war-conflicted country to achieve peace and stability through the help of basketball success. They now join Japan, Australia and host nation France in gracing the hardwood of the 2024 Olympic basketball wherein millions are watching. 

“We’re going to the Olympics. To the Olympics? That’s crazy,” Ivey said.

“We were practicing outside with eagles flying around. While we’re practicing, the courts were flooded. Like to go from there to come and play in front of these fans in the Philippines, I’m on cloud nine right now.

“It’s a great feeling. These guys worked, they persevered, they listened. It’s a great feeling. Kudos to my guys, because without them, we won’t be standing right here.”

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here