Egyptian national team coach Roy Rana has his team on the precipice of clinching an Olympic berth for the first time since 1988. The African Olympic spot appears to be down to Egypt and South Sudan, with Egypt playing New Zealand next and South Sudan squaring off against Angola in its next matchup.
Rana already led his team to its first win in 29 years thanks to a win over Mexico, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. The 30-year coaching veteran has been all over the basketball world, coaching everywhere from Toronto Metropolitan University to the NBA’s Kings.
“Yeah, I probably don’t [reflect on my path] as much as I maybe used to,” Rana said in an interview with Grange. “But, you know, I do have a real sense of inner satisfaction that I was willing to go for it because a lot of people they’re just not willing to take those risks. Like at 50 I decided to leave [TMU] where I probably could have had a job for life. And I took the plunge and said, I’m gonna go for it. And I feel really good that I was willing to take that risk, and it’s allowed me to live the last four years of my life in a way that I never would have dreamed, and it’s been nothing but positive. It’s been really good.”
While several teams have already qualified for the second group stage of the World Cup, teams 17-32 are still to be determined. Further, Egypt is one of five African teams in competition for a spot in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. The match between Egypt and Rana has been a strong one, with Rana first getting the team’s attention for his work during the 2019 U19 World Cup in Cairo while coaching Canada.
“I think everybody knows my history in international basketball,” Rana said. “I got some feedback that Egypt was looking for a coach and started that conversation and pretty quickly started to realize that there was some talent there. I didn’t really know what was going on with basketball in North Africa … other than being there in 2017 — but as I explored it started to really get pretty interesting pretty quickly. You know, it just made sense at the time so I said, hey, why not? I just took the plunge. It’s been an incredible opportunity.”
Egypt’s roster doesn’t feature any active NBA players. However, Patrick Gardner is on the team and is reportedly going to join the Nets for training camp.
We have more notes from around the World Cup:
- Japan defeated Venezuela 86-77 in the 2023 FIBA World Cup and is now just one win away from qualifying for the 2024 Olympics, according to a piece from ESPN. Japan was led in scoring by Makoto Hiejima with 23 points and current Suns wing Yuta Watanabe, who scored 21 points in a 15-point comeback. A win on Saturday against Cape Verde would clinch a spot in the Olympics for the second straight year for Japan. Watanabe is the only active NBA player on Japan’s roster.
- The Wizards turned heads last spring when they signed Xavier Cooks, a longtime star for the NBL’s Sydney Kings to a deal. Cooks is now dominating during his time with Australia and is aiming to help the Boomers win the World Cup with his play during the event, ESPN’s Olgun Uluc writes. Cooks is averaging 14.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for Australia and is impressing with his ability to switch, defend and hustle. “I’m just trying to leave everything on the floor,” Cooks said. The 6’8″ forward is winning over his teammates and coaches with his play, which is evident through their trust in him to run the floor. I recommend reading Uluc’s piece in full, as Cooks gives an insightful look into his play.
- Another player who found a new home last year, Spurs forward/center Sandro Mamukelashvili is standing out with his World Cup play for Georgia’s national team. In a subscriber-only link, Nick Moyle of San Antonio Express-News takes a look at Mamukelashvili’s performance. The 24-year-old big man put up 21 points and seven rebounds in a loss against Slovenia. The Spurs re-signed the Seton Hall product this summer after claiming him off his two-way contract from the Bucks and then converting him to a standard deal.