From Sudan, to Australia, to Louisville: Deng Adel’s journey to America

1 Comment

CHICAGO — Deng Adel has only been in the United States for a year or so, but the 6-foot-7 Class of 2015 wing is already acclimating well to the American style of play and lifestyle.

Basketball wasn’t even Adel’s first sport — that would be soccer — but now through hard work and skill development, basketball has given the native of South Sudan — by way of Australia — a chance to play at Louisville.

“I was born in South Sudan and then I moved to Australia in 2004 and lived there for about 10 years then came here. I used to play soccer though, I wasn’t really into basketball,” Adel told NBCSports.com. “But I moved locations and the only people I would hang around with played basketball, so I just kind of changed sports.”

Basketball now takes up so much of Adel’s time that he could barely watch the World Cup, as he instead travels the country playing in basketball camps and tournaments. Instead of soccer highlights, he watches YouTube videos of NBA greats to study new moves. Deng admitted the transition to the United States hasn’t been easy, but he’s making it happen through hard work.

“It’s been good. The speed is a lot different over here and there’s a lot more athletes. So I have to adjust to that,” Adel said. “I always wanted to play college basketball and I felt that coming here earlier would get me the exposure I needed to really land at a good school.”

Leaving Australia meant Adel going without his family and friends — the friends that introduced him to his new love of basketball — but it also meant that he’s now in position to play for a national championship-winning coach in Rick Pitino at Louisville. That kind of opportunity drives Deng to be at his best on a day-to-day basis.

“It was hard. Right now, I miss my family, but I know that it’s better for me to be here and get this exposure and have the opportunity for me to go to college,” Adel said. They understand what I’m trying to do, but at the same time, it was really hard.

“Just the guys that played basketball with me led to me watching college basketball, and from there, that’s what I wanted to do: go to college and get an education. Getting an education is the most important thing to me and my family. But basketball gives me the chance to go to college.”

The transition will be a bit easier for Adel because he is cousins with current Louisville center Mangok Mathiang. Mathiang, like Adel, is another Sudo-Aussie and transitioned from playing under high school coach Loren Jackson to Louisville. Jackson has coached a couple of Sudanese transplants into college basketball, including Mathiang and former DePaul forward Mac Koshwal, but Adel is more of a wing player.

“I think he’s a Luol Deng that can really put the ball on the floor a little bit better. That’s kind of who I compare him to,” Jackson told NBCSports.com. “Maybe at the next level he can play two-guard. I play him at the two-guard so he can handle and read ball screens and show a lot of versatility. He posts up, he fills the lanes, he shows coming off of ball screens. We’re just trying to make him a complete player.”

Now that Adel is in America, it’s basketball all the time. In Australia, Adel didn’t get basketball on television as much as he would have liked, but it’s different now that’s he’s here. His basketball dreams are coming true very, very quickly.

“You don’t really get a chance to watch it over there; they don’t show basketball on TV as much,” Adel said. “Guys that played basketball, I just kind of did what they did. And then March Madness started…”

Adel smiles as his past thoughts of the NCAA Tournament trail off. College basketball wasn’t prevalent in Australia, but soon Adel will have the chance to make his own NCAA Tournament at Louisville.

Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

Leave a comment

Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.

The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.

Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.

This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.

Oakland’s Greg Kampe hosting charity golf event with big-name coaches

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Oakland head coach Greg Kampe hosted a successful charity event for cancer research two years ago by allowing people to bid online to play a round of golf with some of college basketball’s best coaches.

Kampe is back again this year as he’s hoping to eventually raise $1 million for the American Cancer Society.

According to a report from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Kampe has 11 high-profile names that fans can play with this year.

  • Tom Izzo, Michigan State
  • Frank Martin, South Carolina
  • Rick Barnes, Tennessee
  • Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
  • Chris Holtmann, Butler
  • Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
  • Greg Kampe, Oakland
  • Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons
  • Steve Lavin
  • Fran Fraschilla
  • Bill Raftery

Fans can find more details about the auctions and all of the details here.

The minimum bid is $15,000 per coach. A “buy now” bid of $24,000 is also available.

Each round includes the following, according to the event’s website:

Up for auction will be 11 spectacular packages, featuring a private dinner with elite basketball coaches and VIPs, a one night stay at MotorCity Casino Hotel on Sunday, June 4, and an afternoon of golf on Monday, June 5 at Oakland Hills Country Club on the South Course. The winning bidders and their two guests will round out the foursomes with their selected VIP: Rick Barnes, Mick Cronin, Fran Fraschilla, Chris Holtmann, Tom Izzo, Greg Kampe, Steve Lavin, Frank Martin, Bill Raftery, Stan Van Gundy, or Kevin Willard.

There are a lot of great selections to choose from for this sort of thing, but I can’t imagine a better afternoon than playing golf with Bill Raftery and a few friends. There are some other tempting choices on this list, but that’s the one I would have to jump at.

If you think 137 players declaring for the draft is stupid, you’re probably stupid

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
1 Comment

The NBA Draft’s full early entry list came out on Tuesday afternoon, and there were 137 underclassmen listed on it.

137.

For 60 spots in the NBA Draft, only 30 of which guarantee you a contract in the NBA.

And that’s before you factor in the 45 international players that also declared for the NBA Draft, as well as the crop of seniors — Josh Hart, Monte’ Morris, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Peters — that are going to end up hearing their names called. All told, there are going to be roughly 200 players competing to be one of the 60 people that end up getting drafted on June 22nd, and you don’t have to be any good at math to realize that 200 is a much, much bigger number than 60.

This unleashed a torrent of bad takes on the decision of these players.

And bad may not be doing those takes justice.

Because the bottom-line is this: You cannot paint the decision on whether or not to go pro with a broad brush.

For some players, making money of any kind is something they need to do to support their family, whether it’s what they’ll get with a first round guarantee, the $75-100,000 they’ll get for making a training camp roster to subsidize their time in the D-League while teams develop them or the money they can make in the D-League or overseas. You don’t know what their financial situation is. Maximizing their ability to capitalize on every available dollar they can make off of their athletic gifts may be more important than working towards a degree.

And it’s worth noting here that a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way to make a living in professional basketball. To say nothing of the money that can be made overseas or the number of second round picks and undrafted players that make guaranteed money — which is more than you probably realize — it needs to be noted that D-League salaries are getting a bump this year with the new CBA.

The NBA has also instituted something new called a “two-way contract”. Without getting into the legalese, it’s essentially a retainer worth well into the six figures that they will be able to give to two players that will allow them to retain that player under contract while sending them between the D-League and the NBA roster. In a sense, it creates an extra 60 NBA roster spots for players that have 0-3 years worth of professional basketball on their résumé.

Some players are simply declaring without signing with an agent because they want to get feedback directly from NBA personnel on what their professional prospects. Some will hear that they need to return to school to work on their body, or work on their jumper, or mature as a person to be able to handle everything that comes with being a professional. Others will be told they’re going to make a lot of money by staying in the draft, or that they need to go back to school because, frankly, they are not professional basketball players. Not getting invited to the NBA combine is a pretty good indication of where you stand in the eyes of NBA teams.

Still other players are putting their name into the draft to leave their options open should they be recruited over by the program they are a part of. Take Frank Jackson, for example. If he can return to school and thrive as Duke’s point guard, maybe he turns into a top 20 pick. But what happens if Trevon Duval, the best point guard in the Class of 2017 and a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, picks Duke? Would it be in Jackson’s best interest to come back to Duke when he won’t be playing the position that he needs to learn to play to turn himself into a lasting NBA player?

Jackson, like the roughly 100 underclassmen that have declared without an agent, has until May 24th to make his decision on whether or not he will keep his name in the draft. Until then, he can return to school without damaging his eligibility.

The entire reason that the NCAA changed their rules to allow players to test the waters is so that they can make the most important decision of their lives with as much information as humanly possible. This thing exists for the sole purpose of allowing the kids to have as much knowledge about their options as possible.

And that is exactly what these kids are doing.

So the idea that this rule, or players taking advantage of that rule, however high that number may be, is a bad thing is stupid.