Lakers center Wenyen Gabriel and South Sudan made history by earning their first-ever Olympic berth with a victory in the Group M classification games at the FIBA World Cup on Saturday. These games determined the rankings for places 17-32 and provided teams with opportunities to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games or the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. South Sudan and Japan both secured victories that clinched their spots in the 12-team Olympic men’s basketball field. Alongside Australia and France, these nations are the first to qualify for the 2024 Olympics.
In the South Sudan vs Angola game, South Sudan emerged victorious with a final score of 101-78, achieving a 3-2 record in the World Cup. The win showcased the impressive performance of multiple South Sudanese players, but it was Carlik Jones and Wenyen Gabriel who stood out. Jones recorded near triple-double stats with 26 points, 15 assists, and seven rebounds. Notably, he became the first player in the history of the World Cup to register 10 or more assists in three separate games. Gabriel, the Lakers big, excelled on both ends of the floor. He displayed defensive prowess with six blocks, four of which came in the third quarter alone. Gabriel contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds to secure South Sudan’s victory and their historic Olympic berth.
Jordan Clarkson played a crucial role in the Philippines’ first win of the FIBA World Cup. In a close game against China, Clarkson took charge in the third quarter, scoring 20 points, including five consecutive 3-pointers in less than four minutes. He finished with a game-high 34 points on 61.1% shooting, leading the Philippines to victory and keeping them in contention for a place in the 2024 Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.
Lauri Markkanen showcased his dominance for Finland in their 90-75 victory over Venezuela. The Jazz forward scored 32 points on 9-for-13 shooting, accompanied by nine rebounds and one block. Markkanen’s back-to-back 30-plus point performances in the World Cup further highlighted his skills, ultimately helping Finland achieve a 2-3 record in the tournament.
Japan secured their place in the 2024 Olympic Games with an 80-71 victory over Cape Verde. Joshua Hawkinson led the charge with a game-high 29 points. They join France, Australia, and South Sudan as the fourth team confirmed to participate in the Paris games, with four additional automatic berths still up for grabs at the FIBA World Cup.
Overall, these classification games saw notable performances from players like Jones, Gabriel, Clarkson, Markkanen, and Hawkinson, contributing to their teams’ victories and Olympic qualifications.