Freshman to test waters, won't hire agent

Updated: April 28, 2004, 3:51 PM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Duke freshman Luol Deng has made himself available for the NBA draft but is not ruling out a return to school.

Andy Katz's Take

Duke expected Luol Deng to declare for the draft, but the Blue Devils aren't convinced he'll stay in the draft. Deng is taking finals and didn't want to comment until after he was done with the semester. But the Blue Devils are impressing upon him that he needs another year to become a better wing player and has a chance to be national player of the year as well as the overall top draft pick in 2005. Meanwhile, Duke's staff met with signee Shaun Livingston last week. Duke assistant coach Chris Collins said it's "50-50" whether Livingston declares for the draft. Livingston apparently would rather go to Duke, but is feeling incredible pressure to declare for the draft since he would be a lock for high in the lottery. The 6-foot-7 point guard could be the first point selected in the NBA draft if he were to declare. Collins said he expects Livingston to take until the May 10 deadline to make his announcement official.
Deng, who led the Blue Devils to the Final Four, will not hire an agent for now, keeping open the option of returning for his sophomore season. He has until June 17 to remove his name from consideration and retain his college eligibility.

The 6-foot-8 forward issued a statement Tuesday but was not available for comment.

Duke sports information director Jon Jackson said Deng likely would not comment on the issue until after he has decided whether to return to Durham in the fall. Deng is taking final exams this week, Jackson said.

"The opportunity to pursue a career in professional basketball has been a dream of mine," Deng said in his statement. "With help from my family and coaches, I will continue to gather information to make the best possible decision regarding my future."

Deng, a native of Sudan who came to the United States from England, had an impressive freshman season, averaging 15 points and seven rebounds. Deng was the MVP of the Atlanta Regional and led Duke in scoring in its final three games, including 16 points in the 79-78 loss to Connecticut in the national semifinals.

Deng is a versatile forward who can play on the perimeter or inside, and he was widely regarded as the No. 2 recruit in his class behind LeBron James. Chris Monter, an analyst who publishes a draft newsletter five times a year, expects Deng will be at least a top 10 pick.

"Undoubtedly he will be a very high pick," Monter said from Lakeville, Minn. "I think he's going to go high enough that I'd be surprised ... if he came back."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the school would help examine available draft information "to help Luol make a decision that is best for him and his family."

"We're supportive of Luol's decision," Krzyzewski said.

Deng's father, Aldo Deng, said it was important to the family that Krzyzewski supported the decision.

"It really means a lot," Aldo Deng told The Associated Press from his home in London. "We are really, really very happy that Coach K is behind it and that is what we wanted to see.

"We all support (Luol) and we're happy with Duke, too. When someone there takes care of your child very closely, you feel very close to that person."

Deng's departure would be a significant blow to the 2004-05 Blue Devils, who otherwise would be one of the favorites to reach the Final Four. The Blue Devils are also waiting to see whether signee Shaun Livingston, a 6-7 guard and McDonald's All-American, will go straight to the NBA.

Livingston, who led Peoria High School to a second straight Illinois state championship, might make his decision about the NBA this week, coach Chuck Buescher said Tuesday.

"I asked Shaun if what Luol did made a difference to him, and he acted like it didn't," Buescher said Tuesday. "He's got to make his own decision."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press