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NBL22: Melbourne United v Adelaide 36ers Multicultural Game

Melbourne United’s team is a cultural microcosm of Australian society.

Like Australia, the team is a melting pot of different origins that has come together to sit atop the NBL, breakout star Jo Lual-Acuil Jr says.

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It is why the club is celebrating on Sunday it’s multicultural game against Adelaide 36ers and will wear special jerseys to signify the different nationalities on the team.

“More so than anything, this is not just for United, it’s for Australia, as a whole, period,” Lual-Acuil Jr said.

United as one

“That’s what people love about Australia, the fact that different cultures and different people can come here and have a place they can call home, but can still celebrate their cultures and their traditions without being judged.

“Having a game like this to celebrate all the different cultures and different nationalities that we have on our team and among our fans is a beautiful thing.”

After last year’s grand final win over Perth, Lual-Acuil Jr draped the South Sudanese flag over himself. At the time, he said it was to inspire children from his country to achieve, but he says there is more to it than that.

South Sudanese star Jo Lual-Acuil is proud of his heritage and it shows every time he takes the floor.
Camera IconSouth Sudanese star Jo Lual-Acuil is proud of his heritage and it shows every time he takes the floor. Credit: Supplied

“I’m very proud of where I am from and any chance I can get to bring light to my country and the people of my country, I’m always going to do that,” he said.

“I didn’t get the opportunity to grow up there but I have family over there still and it’s a place that’s close to my heart.”

He prefers not to reflect on the strife in his home country that forced him, at just 3, to leave with his mother, but he has returned to South Sudan to see his father a number of times.

“The majority of my life has been in Australia, but I had an opportunity to go back and see where my dad was from, where my mum’s from and the neighbourhood we used to live in, and those things that had sentimental value to my parents made it more special,” he said.

The 27-year-old, wife Justis and 2-year-old Zeruiah, only this month, welcomed a new addition to the family — a bouncing baby boy Ezana.

Despite the fact he has enjoyed an emergence this season, individual plaudits make the dominant big man almost uncomfortable.

Here’s why:

“It’s five-on-five, it’s a team sport and I feel like one person’s success is based on the team,” he said.

“I couldn’t be out there playing well if we didn’t have Delly or CG or Jack White or Caleb or Ariel or Shea Ili, every piece is important.

“I don’t like when people try to make it seem like one person is responsible for the success of the team or anything like that.

“Other people in the league might be happy with that, but it’s always been a team effort with us.

“I’m sure if you called (Perth superstar) Bryce Cotton and asked him last year, would he rather have had an MVP or a championship trophy, you know what he would have said.”

Lual-Acuil Jr is so single-minded on helping United win back-to-back championships that he refuses to think ahead to what the future may hold — and that includes a potential NBA chance.

Asked if an NBA team called him to go to the US for Summer League or a training camp and this is his response: “I haven’t really thought about it, would you say yes to it?”

My answer: “Hell yes”.

“Yeah, so I guess that answers that, right?” Lual-Acuil Jr laughed.

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