Deng begins interviewing agents
Luol Deng needed to be sure his NBA draft stock was high enough to leave Duke after just one season. Apparently, being picked among the top five selections is high enough to stay in this year's draft.
Talk among NBA personnel evaluators that Deng's a legitimate top-five pick has convinced the freshman that he isn't taking a gamble by staying in the draft. He has been projected as high as No. 3 to Chicago and currently sits No. 4 to Charlotte in ESPN.com's mock draft.
While a formal announcement is forthcoming, for now Deng is interviewing agents this week at Duke. But he will forgo his final three years at Duke, according to associate head coach Johnny Dawkins.
"He's in the process of selecting an agent and he'll declare," Dawkins told ESPN.com Wednesday. "He's been working out here. He's a great kid, and a great player and he wanted to make sure that he could go high. Based on the feedback he is receiving, it looks like he would go high."
Underclassmen such as Deng have until June 17 to officially withdraw before the June 24 NBA draft in New York. Duke is still waiting to see if incoming freshman Shaun Livingston will remain in the draft. Livingston hasn't signed with an agent and the Peoria Central (Ill.) point guard has been working out on the weekends at Hoops The Gym in Chicago.
Livingston is also projected to be selected among the first 14 lottery picks -- possibly as high as No. 5. But Duke is still holding out hope that Livingston will be on the Duke campus this fall. High school seniors can stay in the draft and get picked while still retaining their amateur status if they haven't signed with an agent. But the team that picks the high school senior owns his rights until a year after his college eligibility expires, which makes this option highly unlikely in the case of a player like Livingston.
Dawkins said he wasn't sure what Livingston's status was at this point, but knew Livingston hadn't made up his mind whether to stay in the draft.
Deng originally let it be known through Duke that he would conduct all of his workouts on campus. But such workouts never materialized. While Deng has worked out on campus, he hasn't done any workouts for NBA teams -- yet. Dawkins said once Deng decided to hire an agent, he realized it made more sense to go to the team's facilities.
"He'll actually go to the places and see the cities," Dawkins said. "That would be a better experience for him. If he were [considering] coming back, it would be one thing to have the workouts here, but now he feels confident in his positioning so he should go see the cities and spend time on his own and with the teams and meet them.
"It will be a memorable experience. They'll treat him well. It would be like an official recruiting visit."
Deng averaged 15.1 points and 6.9 rebounds as a freshman. He helped lead the Blue Devils to the Final Four. Prior to his first game at Duke, his teammates said Deng would be the missing piece to get them back to the Final Four after losing to Kansas in the Sweet 16 the previous year.
Deng didn't disappoint. The 6-8, 220-pound former teammate of Connecticut's Charlie Villanueva while prepping at Blair Academy (N.J.) proved to be one of the toughest small forwards for opposing teams to guard in and out of the ACC.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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