- National Teams
In Episode 69 of the Hoopsfix Podcast we speak with Ajou Deng, one of the most talented players to ever come out of the UK.
Standing 6’11” with a 7’4″ wingspan, Deng – the older brother of NBA and GB star Luol – had a skillset ahead of his time, being able to face up and handle the ball on the perimeter, ending up one of the most heralded prospects to ever land at UConn.
Growing up through a devastating civil war in Sudan, him and his family fled to Egypt where he picked up a basketball for the first time under the tutelage of 7’7″ Sudanese NBA star Manute Bol.
From there, his family were granted asylum to England, where he played for Brixton Topcats for a year and a half under Jimmy Rogers before attracting the attention of UConn, committing early and making the move to St Thomas More High School in the US for two seasons, where he averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks a game.
He was named a Parade All American Third team in 1998, before joining UConn in the 98-99 season, where, led by future NBA players Richard Hamilton and Khalid El Amin, they won a national championship although Ajou was stuck to practicing only due to being academically ineligible.
The level of hype around him was unprecedented, Khalid El Amin called him the best player on their roster that year in a Sports Illustrated feature spread, as he was named the Big East preseason rookie of the year.
Battling through foot injuries in college and with minutes hard to come by, Deng announced he was transferring from UConn in his Sophomore year, ending up at Fairfield for his final two years at college whilst still having foot issues.
Having been told by a doctor he should never play again, a year out rehabbing after college saw him sign his first pro contract with Nick Nurse’s Brighton Bears in the BBL, where he would go on to have a five year pro career predominantly in the UK along with a season in Slovakia, before hanging them up after the 2008-9 season.
He now works full time for the Luol Deng Foundation.
Note: Ajou joined us on the call from Uganda where the internet connection wasn’t always the strongest, we have edited most of the drops out where possible, but there are still moments where it gets a little choppy – stick with it and it gets stronger as the call goes on!
In this 90 minute episode, hear from Ajou on:
The show has been approved on iTunes – find it here and please subscribe to automatically receive new episodes straight to your phone/computer/tablet – if you could give us a review/rating it would be much appreciated to help the podcast spread far and wide, meanwhile it is also on Spotify here, Overcast, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts.