Sudanese war refugee Majok Deng scores for Salpointe
5:44 PM, Feb 15, 2017
6:00 PM, Feb 15, 2017
Majok Deng would remember the date well, even if it wasn't so recent.
"January 2nd, 2017, on a Monday," recalled Deng. "I got called out of practice."
It was for a phone call that could change anyone's destiny. And, it came nearly six years since Majok Denk left his war torn homeland as a refugee from the South Sudan.
"Right now, it's a disaster. The struggle, the death, people dying in front of you."
Through the United Nations Refugee Agency, Majok, his mom, and four brothers left their Dad grandmother behind, and came to Tucson. It's where he picked up a basketball for the first time.
"The game just came naturally to me. It was something my cousins told me to do."
One of Deng's cousins is two-time NBA All-Star Luol Deng, who currently plays small forward for the Lakers. Majok is trying to follow in Luol's footsteps, and Salpointe coach Brian Holstrom sees the similarity in their games.
"You only have to watch him for a few minutes to be able to tell he has special physical tools," said Holstrom.
A six foot five sophomore, Majok can drive to the basket, or shoot from the outside. But, his biggest assist doesn't come in the form of a made basket.
"The way he handles himself, how positive he is, it's so inspiring on a daily basis," said Holstrom. "it's a coach's dream, not only because of his work ethic but the passion he brings.
One of Deng's teammates is Cameron Miller, son of Wildcat coach Sean Miller, who attends Salpointe games when possible. Majok was starting to show up on the radar of power five college coaches.
"My mentality was, what can I do to make him look at me, what can I do to make him start a conversation with me," said Deng.
The NCAA forbids college coaches to talk about recruits, but Majok says Miller told him, "Majok, don't lose your love of the game. Just keep working hard, and I see that you have a lot of potential.
And, that leads up back to January 2nd, 2017. Deng was pulled out of practice, and offered a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Arizona.