Rockets assistant Royal Ivey coaches South Sudan to 2024 Olympics

The Republic of South Sudan became the world’s youngest nation and Africa’s 54th country on July 9, 2011. Until 2019, there wasn’t an indoor basketball arena in the entire country.

But that’s when former NBA player Luol Deng became president of the South Sudan Basketball Federation. With Deng’s  connections to the NBA and G League, he was able to bring players such as the Los Angeles Lakers’ Wenyen Gabriel and G League MVP Carlik Jones, all while recruiting other talented players and coaches to join them.

One of those recruitments was Royal Ivey, now an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has more:

Three summers ago, Deng tapped former NBA player and longtime friend Royal Ivey to be the team’s head coach. Ivey, an assistant with the Rockets, started practices on concrete floors and outdoor courts that were sometimes flooded.

Now, after a recent 101-78 victory over Angola at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, South Sudan’s Bright Stars have secured Africa’s lone 2024 Olympics bid. It’s the nation’s first Olympic berth in any sport.

According to Windhorst, the success comes “with a team filled with refugees and the children of refugees from the war-torn nation.”

Ivey, who mentored Deng over two decades ago when he arrived at the same high school in New Jersey, said after his team clinched:

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. A year ago we were practicing outside with eagles flying around while we were practicing and the courts were flooded. Like to go from there to come and play in front of these fans in the Philippines [Manila], and I’m on cloud nine right now.

Read on for an assortment highlights, interviews, and postgame reaction from Manila, including remarks from Ivey. South Sudan finished its 2023 FIBA World Cup run with a 3-2 record.

South Sudan earns 2024 Olympics berth

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire