Passport Problems Detain Deng
Joe Mantegna is without his star player. Junior small forward Luol Deng is missing valuable days of class. It's not a good situation but it is one that some very important people are working to rectify. For the record, here's what's transpired.
Around the middle part of December, Deng left for an overseas tournament in Poland. He helped lead England to the finals of the European Junior National Tournament over the holidays. He averaged 33.5 points a game in three outings and was named the event's MVP. He was playing for England because the Sudanese native holds dual citizenship. Last summer, he was the MVP of another overseas event while playing for England.
OK, so the event's over and it's time to come back to the United States. One problem: without his knowing, the rules for international travel were amended because of the Sept. 11 tragedy.
"He's in England right now," Blair Academy coach Joe Mantegna said. "There's 21-day screening process. He's missing a lot of school." It looks like Sudanese passports have to go through an extensive screening process because the country of Sudan is one nation that reportedly has some terrorist ties and thus those passports get put through stringent processes.
"We have senators working on it and have contacted people in the British Parliament," Mantegna said. "Even the Minister of Sports in Britain can't get the kid out. Based on the terrorist threats they aren't playing around."
Mantegna understands the reasons for the delay and has an appreciation for the process. However, had Deng known about the travel restrictions he never would have left the country in the first place. Now, he's missing school days and a late-January target for return is the best that can be hoped for.
"It's not about basketball, it's about the kid being in an unlucky situation."