Afrobasket: South Sudan target fairytale semi-final spot

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South Sudan basketball team

South Sudan coach Royal Ivey has praised the bond within his squad as the Afrobasket debutants try to book a shock place in Saturday's semi-finals.

On Thursday, a team that only joined world body Fiba in 2013, two years after the country's independence, could become one of Africa's four best if they beat Tunisia in the quarter-finals.

This will be South Sudan's biggest challenge so far, with the Tunisians not only the defending champions but also one of three sides yet to taste defeat at the tournament in Rwanda.

"These guys are great, they do all the right things and the biggest thing is the brotherhood - it is family," head coach Royal Ivey told BBC Sport Africa.

"The way they care about each other is really love in that room. And I am so fortunate to be their head coach. They are teaching me day in, day out how to be a better coach and how to be a better person. So I want to thank them."

Ivey, an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, took charge of South Sudan earlier this year after previous coach - and NBA legend Luol Deng - stepped down.

Deng is now president of the South Sudan Basketball Federation and has repeatedly stressed the importance of the sport to a country which celebrated its tenth year of independence in July.

"Our main goal as a federation is to build foundation so the youth and everyone know there is a platform to hone their skills and be great in life just as the beautiful game has done for me," said Deng, external-linka two-time NBA All-Star.

Deng's successor Ivey is under no illusions about the prospect of facing two-time champions Tunisia who, in contrast to their opponents, first took part in Afrobasket back in 1964, two years after the inaugural competition.

"They are a great team, better team, very skilled, can shoot the ball, they execute and we are looking for the challenge," added Ivey.

"It is going to be a fun game and the guys are going to be ready when we line up and step in between those lines."

In Thursday's other quarter-finals, Cape Verde take on a Uganda side delighted to have made the last eight, having upset 2015 champions Nigeria with an 80-62 win on Tuesday in Kigali.

"It is surreal to get to do this - to come out here and be part of history," Ugandan centre John Deng Geu said. "To be a role model for kids back in Uganda is amazing."

In the first quarter-finals on Wednesday, five-time champions Senegal take on the only team to have won more titles than them - record 11-time winners Angola.

Senegal are one of the three unbeaten sides in Rwanda, while the Angolans had to reach the last eight via a play-off after underperforming in the group stage.

Later on Wednesday, Ivory Coast - who have also won all their three games - take on a Guinea side who knocked out hosts Rwanda to reach the quarter-finals.

Both semi-finals take place on Saturday, with the winners meeting in the final on Sunday in the Rwanda capital.

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