Luol Deng, Deng Top50camp ()Luol Deng, Deng Top50camp () © Copyright

Taking Brits to the big league

Luol Deng was back in the UK to host the Deng Top50camp, an NBA-supported project aimed at growing elite basketball in the UK. We caught up with the two-time All Star taking Kobe’s place at the LA Lakers

So, we’re at DengTop50camp – how does it work?

OK, so this is the 50 best players in the UK. Throughout the year, we have people scout them, so besides going to the US, this is the highest level of competition they’ll have played in. They get to see how good they really are, and they’re being taught by a lot of good coaches, then when we rank them from one to 50, we create a competitive nature where they want to be better.

So how do these young prospects fare going on to play professionally? Is there more of a challenge?

I think the challenge has always been there, it’s always very difficult to make it to the top. I mean, we’re talking about 300 players or so in the NBA – they’re the best players in the world. So I always try to tell these kids, don’t look at anyone else, just be the best you can be.

Luol Deng, Deng Top50camp ()

 

And paired with the camp, you have the Luol Deng Foundation – what kind of things are you up to?

It’s something I’m passionate about. We focus on a lot of different things, and one of them is ensuring resources for basketball are available here in the UK. The Foundation really aims to give people the opportunity to fall in love with the game, and I’m happy that I’m in a position to do that.

You’re from humble beginnings – born in Sudan, growing up and playing basketball in Brixton – and you’ve gone on to great things; a Chicago Bulls legend and now onto the Lakers. How does the Western Conference motivate you?

Every year brings a new challenge. I’m a player that looks for the challenge, I don’t take failure. For me, just to be in the NBA, I mean, I’m a kid who grew up in the middle of a civil war, I was a refugee, and so I’ve always felt like people never believed in me. My whole life has been proving somebody wrong. I have friends and family that believe in me, but I don’t think the world would be right if I didn’t have my doubters.

Luol Deng, Deng Top50camp ()

 

What aspect of your game are you focusing on for the new season?

My game is going to be a lot different in terms of the Luke Walton [LA Lakers Head Coach] system. I’m a great shooter, but what makes me a threat is my movement and cutting, and I think Luke’s system is going to benefit me, allow me to be creative and use my basketball IQ. I’m really looking forward to it!

When you were a young prospect, who were the kind of players that inspired you?

My brothers had a big role in what I wanted to do. Manute Bol was also a big role model, and Grant Hill – he was someone I always wanted to play like, and one of the reasons I went to Duke [University] was because of him.

The Luol Deng Foundation, supported by The National Basketball Association (NBA), is hosting the Deng Top50camp, which helps grow elite basketball in the UK

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