World Cup Standouts Day 9: Jordan Clarkson, Carlik Jones take over –

Lakers center Wenyen Gabriel & South Sudan earned its first Olympic berth with a victory Saturday in Group M classification games.

Saturday’s games at the FIBA World Cup were the classification games for places 17-32 as all the teams competing were seeking spots in either the 2024 Olympic Games or the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. South Sudan and Japan both earned victories to clinch spots in the 12-team Olympic men’s basketball field. These nations join Australia (Oceania automatic qualifier) and France (host nation) as the teams to have clinched spots in 2024 Olympic field so far.

Here’s a look at who stood out on that stage in Saturday’s classification games of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

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Carlik Jones & Wenyen Gabriel, South Sudan

South Sudan made history as the nation earned its first Olympic berth after defeating Angola 101-78 and finishing 3-2 at the World Cup. While the historic victory featured double-figure scoring from five South Sudanese players, it was the dynamic duo of Jones and Gabriel who led the charge.

Jones put up a near triple-double performance with a game-high 26 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds. The reigning Kia NBA G League MVP becomes the first player in history to register 10-plus assists in three separate games in a single World Cup.

As for Gabriel, the Lakers big impressed on both ends of the floor. He was a defensive force in the paint, coming up with four of his game-high six blocks in the third period alone. Gabriel finished 15 points (5-for-7 shooting) and 10 rebounds to help South Sudan cruise in its final game of the World Cup.

“This team is a beam of light, like I keep on saying,” South Sudan coach Royal Ivey said. “We’re bringing unity, camaraderie, love and friendship to this country. This country’s only been independent for 12 years. To do this, for Luol Deng to put this together, this is incredible. This is incredible.”

Jordan Clarkson, Philippines

The Philippines registered its first win of the 2023 FIBA World Cup behind the stellar play of Clarkson. It was a close game at halftime with China up three entering the third quarter. That’s when Clarkson took over as he exploded for 20 points, including five straight 3-pointers in less than four minutes. The Jazz guard finished with a game-high 34 points on 11-for-18 shooting (61.1%). The victory keeps the Philippines in the running to make the 2024 Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.

Lauri Markkanen, Finland

The Jazz forward dominated, pouring in a game-high 32 points (9-for-13 from the field) to go along with nine rebounds and one block in the 90-75 victory over Venezuela. It was the second straight 30-plus point performance from the reigning Kia Most Improved Player of the Year as he wowed fans at Okinawa Arena with an impressive fourth-quarter showing to secure the win. Finland concludes its play in the 2023 FIBA World Cup with a 2-3 record.

Joshua Hawkinson, Japan

Japan clinched a spot in the 2024 Olympic games after defeating Cape Verde 80-71 behind the dominant play of Hawkinson, who registered a game-high 29 points. Japan becomes the fourth confirmed team to earn a spot in the Paris games, joining host France, Australia and South Sudan with four more automatic berths still up for grabs at the FIBA World Cup.

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