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MANILA, Philippines – Two former teammates take on different sides in the FIBA World Cup classification phase, but still with crucial implications in their country’s Olympic hopes.
Gilas Pilipinas’ Kai Sotto and South Sudan’s Sunday Dech, who both saw action for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League (NBL) Australia, look to play key roles when their teams clash at 8 pm on Thursday, August 31, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. (LIVE UPDATES: Philippines vs South Sudan – FIBA World Cup 2023)
“Facing him would be great again… obviously, we were teammates for two years in Adelaide,” said Dech, a South Sudanese-Australian guard.
“He’s one of my closest friends now and we’re going to battle [tonight] to see who’s the better team.”
Although their teams have been eliminated, both the Philippines and South Sudan remain in the hunt for an Olympic berth.
Only the top-ranked teams from Asia and Africa, and the top two from the Americas and Europe will book 2024 Paris Olympics slots. Australia already secured the first Olympic seat after emerging as the best-performing Oceania team.
Dech posted averages of 4.7 points, a rebound, and a couple of assists in 17.8 minutes of action in three games for the Sudanese, who have been captivating fans for their gutsy plays in their first World Cup stint.
Sotto, meanwhile, normed 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in 9.4 minutes of play in three Gilas games.
“I will bounce back every time I step inside the court,” said the 7-foot-3 Sotto as the Philippines continues to seek a first win.
Dech said he has been chatting with Sotto as their teams are billeted in the same Taguig City hotel.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Dech as Sudan, lowly ranked at world No. 62, vies for an upset.
But unlike the Philippines, Sudan already scored a breakthrough World Cup win against China – a major feat for the 12-year-old nation, the youngest in the world.
“[Now] we regroup and take the learnings of today and look forward to playing Kai and Gilas,” said Dech. – Rappler.com