Junior to Watch: Luol Deng

This year's recruiting battle on Tobacco Road centered around Shavlik Randolph. Next year's war between Duke and North Carolina could be waged on Loul Deng.

Deng, the younger but more talented brother of Ajou Deng, who began his promising career at UConn before transferring to Fairfield, is attracting the interest of all the big-time colleges throughout the country. He is ranked among nearly every recruiting guru's Top 10 juniors in the nation.

Deng's coach, Blair Academy's (N.J.) Joe Mantegna, says that "UNC and Duke are killing for him" and Texas, Villanova, Michigan, George Washington and Virginia are also in heavy pursuit.

Loul is a few inches shorter than Ajou, and is extremely versatile, being able to play any position on the court at Blair. He is very athletic and has a terrific all-around game, putting up 21 points and 9 boards per contest while leading the team in 3-pointers last season as a sophomore. Deng's main drawback is his strength; he could use some more weight on his slender 6-8, 215-pound frame. But the forward can knock down the trifecta consistently, is an excellent passer for a player his size and has the work ethic to go along with his talent.

His work habits come from an appreciation of the opportunity he has been given.

Deng was born in Sudan, but his family moved to Egypt when he was 5 years old because of a civil war in his homeland. He stayed in Egypt for about four years before packing up again and leaving for England.

He already knew two languages when he left Sudan because he was born in the south and then moved to the north. Then he picked up Arabic without much problem in his somewhat brief stay before leaving for London.

"It was a better life in England," said Loul, who speaks four languages. "For basketball and other things. It just offered us a better future."

Deng's family stayed in England and watched Ajou leave and thrive at St. Thomas More (Conn.) and then saw Loul and his older sister, Arek, depart for Blair Academy.

"It's just me, my brother and my sister here in the United States," Loul added. "And it's because of basketball.

"The toughest thing was leaving my family when I was 14 years old, coming here as a freshman without my mom. But what makes me work so much harder is knowing that I'm away from home."

Loul speaks to his older brother at least three times every week, goes to Fairfield for long weekends and looks to him for support and guidance. He's made no secret that Ajou will play an integral role in where he goes to college.

"Whatever college I pick, I guarantee it'll also be his decision," Loul said. "To be honest with you, I have no idea where I'll go yet. But I think about it every day. One day it'll be Duke and three days later it'll be George Washington."

Deng's list is currently comprised of Duke, who he says is "very good at the recruiting game", along with Virginia, Maryland, George Washington and North Carolina. Fairfield is also a strong possibility, even though Ajou will already be out of eligibility before his younger brother steps foot on campus.

Loul is much quicker than Ajou and is somewhat of a cross between Shane Battier and Lamar Odom. Mantegna said Loul's got a comparable feel for the game that Battier had, but he feels his guy has more natural ability than the former Duke All-American.

"He's got the highest basketball IQ I've ever coached," said Mantegna, who coached at Boston University in the early 1990s. "But he's a better person than he is a player and he's the hardest-working kid I've ever coached."

Inside Carolina Top Stories