August 24, 2023

By Chris Ekstrand

While it’s still the offseason for NCAA and NBA basketball, one of the major events in the basketball world is taking place from August 25 through September 10 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.

The 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup features 32 national teams vying for the gold medal. Since the competition is much larger than the Olympic Games, where only 12 national teams compete, the World Cup is regarded in basketball circles as the “true” international competition.

The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament boasts significant representation at this year’s World Cup, with 19 PIT alumni participating. Some of the players were born in the countries they are representing, while others are “naturalized” citizens that took advantage of FIBA rules allowing one foreign player per team.

Two players expected to play integral roles for their teams had to bow out of the competition due to injuries. Jock Landale of the Houston Rockets will be unable to play for Australia and Matt Costello, who played at Michigan State before a long international career in Spain, won’t suit up for Ivory Coast.

One of the most intriguing teams making its debut in the World Cup is South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Former NBA player Luol Deng is the team’s president, and has done a superb job in organizing the country’s best basketball players to earn qualification for the World Cup. Marial Shayok, the former Virginia standout who has had brief stints with NBA teams and played for the Maine Celtics of the NBA G League last season, will lead a team that also includes Mangok Mathiang (Louisville) and Emmanuel Akot (Western Kentucky. Shayok played in the 2019 PIT, Mathiang played in 2017 and Akot performed at the 2023 PIT.

Puerto Rico also lists three PIT alumni on its 12-man roster. European veteran John Holland (2011 PIT, Boston University) is the senior member of his team. Isaiah Pineiro (2019 PIT, San Diego) and Stephen Thompson Jr. (2019 PIT, Oregon State) are more recent additions to Puerto Rico’s national team.

Slovenia is one of the favorites to medal in the competition due to the presence of NBA superstar Luke Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks. Playing alongside Doncic will be former Virginia big man Mike Tobey (2016 PIT), who will join Crvena Zvezda of Serbia this fall after playing the past six seasons in Spain. Tobey is one of Slovenia’s most important players and provides an inside-outside scoring threat for his team.

Another player expected to play a huge role for his national team is former South Carolina standout Michael Carrera (2016 PIT). The 30-year-old swingman has been a star in Spain’s second division, where he’ll move to Estudiantes this season after a decorated stint at Lleida, where he averaged over 20 points per game this past season.

Greece does not have the most advantageous draw of the competition, as it competes in Group C along with the United States, New Zealand and Jordan. But the team does have one major asset on its side with the addition of Thomas Walkup (2016 PIT, Stephen F. Austin). Walkup has played the past two seasons for Olympiacos and has been a key contributor as the Reds have captured back-to-back Greek league championships. This will be Walkup’s first opportunity representing Greece in a major international competition.

While Serbia won’t have reigning NBA Champion Nikola Jokic on its roster for the World Cup, the team will still have a strong medal chance while being led by Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Atlanta Hawks. One of the team’s key players will be former Arizona center Dusan Ristic (2018 PIT), who has blossomed into a pivotal player in Spain’s top league. Ristic will play for Tenerife next season.

Another veteran of Spain’s ACB playing a starring role for a national team outside Spain is Kendrick Perry (2014 PIT, Youngstown State), who plays for Unicaja in the beautiful city of Malaga, Spain. Perry will team with Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic to form a powerful scoring duo. Perry is a phenomenal success story, having worked his way up from leagues in Hungary and Macedonia to become a star performer in Spain, Europe’s best national league.

Former NBA guard Jorge Gutierrez (2012 PIT, California), who has played for Mexico’s national team for more than a decade, is the type of wise combo guard who always seems to come up big when his team needs him the most. Gutierrez has had NBA stints with the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets.

Germany will count on NBA stars Franz Wagner of the Orlando Magic and Dennis Schroder of the Toronto Raptors for most of its scoring, but national team role players Maodo Lo (2016 PIT, Columbia) and Niels Giffey (2014 PIT, Connecticut) will be on the court in key moments during the competition.

Angel Delgado (2018 PIT, Seton Hall) had one of the best years of his career this past season for Pinar Karsiyaka of Turkey, putting up numerous double-doubles and getting his team all the way to the finals of Turkey’s BSL. Delgado has also been a stalwart performer for the Dominican Republic’s national team, having played for his country since his days at Seton Hall back in 2015.

Among the young players making national team debuts in the World Cup will be Josh Hawkinson (2017 Washington State), who has become a star in Japan and will now represent that country; Silvio de Sousa (2022 PIT, Chattanooga), who will play for Angola, and big men Anas Mahmoud (2018 PIT, Louisville) and Patrick Gardner (2023 PIT, Marist), who will both wear the uniform of Egypt, making a return to the competition after not qualifying in 2019.

Thanks to Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype.com, you can find the rosters for all the World Cup national teams at: https://hoopshype.com/lists/2023-basketball-world-cup-the-full-rosters/

The official site of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, helpful to follow schedules and standings, can be found here: https://www.fiba.basketball/basketballworldcup/2023

ESPN and ESPN2 will be televising games involving the United States, while all the other games can be streamed with a subscription to ESPN+.

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