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As Luol Deng heads into his second consecutive appearance as an NBA All Star, his former coach, Brixton Topcats legend Jimmy Rogers, has paid tribute to the 27-year old and his incredible work ethic.
In a feature with NBA Africa, Rogers, who founded the Topcats over three decades ago, explained why he could tell Luol was special:
“I have seen a lot of talented players and a lot of them wasted their time. But Luol was different. You know why he has made it to the NBA? When I came back from the States once, and I go to the States for the (NCAA) Final Four every year since 1984 and bring all kinds of stuff you could not get here, like weighted jackets and weighted balls, I brought a weighted jacket with me that time. I thought ‘the first guy I see in the gym, I’m going to give it to him.’
“Luol thought it was brilliant. He asked if I wanted him to bring it to the next practice, but I just asked ‘Why don’t you wear it? Take it to school.’ That was in early April and he was only 11. That week, it was half-term and our facilities here (in Brixton) were in use, so we had to go practice in Streatham. Streatham is four and a half miles away from where he lived. The first day of the camp Luol was late. And Luol was never late, ever. So, he came in and I asked: ‘How are you Luol?’ – Already giving him a hard look. He said: ‘I’ve lost my travel pass.’ I knew his father could not afford it, so I wanted to give him some money to get a new one. He refused and I forgot all about it.
“Years later he makes it to the NBA and he came back to speak to the kids here in Brixton. ‘So, you’re going to ask me how I’ve made it to the NBA?’ He pointed at me and said, ‘I came late to the camp one day and he saw me. I had lost my travel ticket. Coach offered to pay for a new one, but I said no. I ran to practice, 4.5 miles, for a month, at 11 (years old), every day.’ And that’s why Luol is in the NBA. He has worked so hard, harder than anyone else I’ve seen.”
Read the full feature with Jimmy Rogers by Pawel Weszka over at NBA Africa
Image Credit: NBA Africa