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Deng's dedication breeds success
By Rob Dugdale

Luol Deng
Luol Deng is becoming a force in the NBA
"He's a bright light for players in the UK and his success in the States is only going to fuel what kids do in gyms and on playgrounds here and in Europe."

That's what NBA legend Michael Jordan thinks of Great Britain's rising NBA star Luol Deng, now in his third season with Jordan's former team, the Chicago Bulls.

Deng's success is rapidly - and rightly - becoming the inspiration for a generation of young British players hoping to follow in his footsteps.

"He's developing well," added Jordan.

"I'm happy for him - he's a great, great guy. I had a chance to meet him and his dedication to the game of basketball is very strong."

That dedication comes from a journey that started in Sudan, with stop-offs in Egypt and London before a scholarship took him to high school and university in the United States.

Deng recalls taking his first steps in basketball - and making his first NBA connection - when his family left Sudan.

"Manute Bol taught my brothers how to play basketball," he said. "I was really young - about seven. I was nine when we moved to the UK, playing soccer mostly. My brothers were playing basketball," he said.

Born: 16 April 1985, Wau, Sudan
Height: 6ft 9in (2.05m)
Career: Brixton Topcats, Blair Academy, Duke University, Chicago Bulls

Also born in Sudan, the 7ft 7in Bol became famous as the tallest NBA player of his generation and was playing with Philadelphia when he met the Deng family.

But it was when the family moved to South London that Luol's interest in basketball started to overtake football. He and his elder brother Ajou joined the highly-rated Brixton programme run by Jimmy Rogers.

"He was a quiet, likeable kid," said Rogers, who still refers to Luol as Michael, the name he adopted in England.

"He was always very mature for his age on and off the basketball court."

Deng only committed to the sport at the age of 14.

"I made the decision that I was going to stop playing two sports and just focus on one," he said. "With my height (Luol is 6ft 9in and brother Ajou 6ft 11in), I focused on basketball."

Luol is said to rate his formative years at Brixton as the hardest of his career and, according to Rogers, almost walked out at one stage. But he stuck at it.

"It's not something that comes overnight, so my first tip would be spend some time on it," said Deng.

"Being taught the right kind of basketball at a young age is going to help a lot. You can't just be athletic, you've got to be a good jump shooter, you've got to dribble the ball, you've got to pass, read the game."

His obvious talent made a move to that USA unavoidable. He went to Blair Academy in New Jersey for two years, then to Duke University in North Carolina.

After a single season at Duke under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski (many feel he should have stayed longer), he chose to enter the NBA at the age of 19.

Two years later, his basketball education continues. Currently it's his strength he's working on.

"Last year I just felt that most guys were stronger than me and if you're running all game and then trying to push against guys it takes away some of your strength and you've got to be in better shape for that," he said.

Deng is seen as a good all-round player but he advocates working on the specifics as well.

"If you're a scorer, you're going to focus on your jumpshot and how to score," he said.

"If you're a point guard, you have to work on your ball handling and how you're going to the read the game, and mostly how you're going to get everybody involved.

"If you're a big guy, you've got to work on your post game. It really depends on what position you want to be."

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