The Miami Heat small forward said a shared history connects him with many of the players from the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association.
“I know what a lot of these kids have been through and to have someone like me who’s playing in the highest level of basketball…They look up to me,” he said.
Deng is teaching the players skills but he said talent alone won’t get them to the NBA.
“It takes a lot of commitment and a lot of sacrifice. This is a huge world and there’s a lot of talented players out there but what you do in terms of sacrifice will give you the edge.”
It’s something Melbourne United’s newest recruit knows all about. Unveiled by the NBL side today, Majok Majok came to Australia as a refugee in 2002, and he said the experience made him appreciate every chance he gets.
“It lets you know that you can’t take anything for granted, every opportunity you get you have to take advantage of. I got an opportunity to play basketball and I gotta make the most,” he said.
He’s the first South Sudanese player to join the club. The first, they hope, of many.
“The fact that he’s got that background can really resonate with some of the kids, and assist in the transition for some of the next generation,” said Melbourne United CEO Vince Crivelli.
Melbourne United will be using Majok as a liaison with South Sudanese-Australians to help develop future NBL players.
Organisers of the South Sudanese Australian National Classic tournament this weekend said the competition was about maintaining a sense of community and cultural identity for the players and fostering the next generation of Australian basketball stars.
“We’ve had some good talent scouts come to the tournaments and some of the kids have been able to get scholarships to US colleges and the AIS. So it’s about developing the kids to be good basketball players and also about social engagement,” said SSANBA basketball operations manager Manyang Berberi.
Deng’s visit comes ahead of the South Sudanese Australian National Classic tournament this weekend.
*When Deng fled the country it was Sudan, not South Sudan.
Melb United’s Majok and me… I’m there just for scale @SBSNews @NBL pic.twitter韩国半永久纹眉会所,/b3YdXSgnwC
— Abby Dinham (@abbydinham) July 9, 2015