ROLE MODEL: Miami Heat star Luol Deng in action
BASKETBALL STAR Luol Deng continues to be a role model of note. The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Luol Deng Foundation, a non-profit organisation that uses basketball as a positive tool in Africa, the U.S. and the UK, have announced a new partnership that will see the NBA support the DENG Academy, a basketball school of excellence run out of Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton founded by Miami Heat forward Deng.
The DENG Academy aims to produce elite basketball players to feed into Brixton Topcats Basketball Club of the English Basketball League, while providing participation opportunities for up and coming players in the Brixton area.
“Having played for the Topcats and with so many ties to the Brixton community, I am proud for the Luol Deng Foundation to be associated with the NBA on this initiative,” said Deng.
“The DENG Academy provides a platform to teach the values of the game including health and wellness, teamwork and respect while producing the next generation of home grown talent.”
“This partnership really speaks volumes of where both organisations see the future of DENG Academy,” said Steve Vear, CEO of the Luol Deng Foundation.
“Not only on the basketball court, but also the life skills we want to instill in the kids. We look forward to the launch of the programme this week and continuing our work with the NBA to elevate the game of basketball in the UK.”
“We are excited to extend our partnership with the Luol Deng Foundation and demonstrate our joint commitment to youth and elite development in London,” said Benjamin Morel, NBA senior vice president, Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Luol Deng is a tremendous role model for the youth through his play on the court and his work in the community, and we look forward to the success of the programme.”
The NBA and the Luol Deng Foundation also partnered on the DENG Camp TOP 50, which took place in August 2014. The inaugural three-day residential basketball camp at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London was aimed at the most talented male athletes ages 19 and under from across the UK, as selected by a panel of national and club team coaches.
Deng was born in South Sudan and became a British citizen in 2006, having moved to London with his family in 1994. The 6’9 forward was drafted seventh overall in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls.
In 2006-07 he was the only Bulls player to start all 82 regular-season games. He joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in January 2014, during which time he was voted the 2013-14 winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, presented annually to the player, coach or trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community. He is currently a forward with the Miami Heat, having signed with them in July.