Sometimes it’s like a little kid being in a candy store and not knowing if that piece of candy your eying is all that just because you can’t identify it or have heard of it. I felt like this last year after a G-League game. It was a very warm mid November day as I exited a G-League game in Portland Maine between the Maine Celtics and Capital City Go Gos. After having watched a high scoring fest with little defense, my basketball evening wasn’t finished yet. Meeting guys and getting selfies is always on the agenda, but when you have been around the game for 2 decades and seemingly interviewed almost everyone, there always seems to be a guy or two I have had dealings with. It wasn’t any different in Maine. On this night there were quite a few people I wanted to say hello to. It began with catching up with ex NBA player and Maine assistant coach Awvee Storey who I had met back in 2007 in Germany, meeting a few guys from capital City who I had interviewed the season before in Germany and saying high to Eric Demers and reminding him if he could please complete my Interview that I had sent to him. In between, I had to keep an eye on all the massive talent that was coming out the arena door like Greg Monroe or guys like Chris Clemons, Luke Kornet or Ryan Arcidiacono who I all got selfies with, but I couldn’t get everyone. It was really hectic with so many guys coming out as well as having to deal with a annoying security man that I missed getting a selfie with a tall looking guy that had an unforgettable wide smile. I remember asking someone who that was and was told that is Deng Adel (201-F-1997, college: Louisville, agency: Verus Management). With all the NBA talent on the floor, his 10 points in 14 minutes remained off my radar that night. I honestly had never heard of him and just let him slip away. When I got home and did research, I found out that he had indeed played 18 NBA games for the Cleveland Cavs. I figured I would never see him again, but if a guy decides to come overseas, there is always a chance I might interview him. Fast forward 10 months later to October 3 on the national reunification day of Germany, I had a 10am telephone conference call with him. Sometimes the basketball world can be so small. I may not have seen him through the phone, but his warm personality felt like we were really face to face. He has seen a lot in the NBA and now is ready to take charge overseas, but the NBA is still on his mind in the future.
Deng Adel who lists current Boston Celtics Malcolm Brogdon and Jayson Tatum as his toughest opponents in the NCAA was born on February 7th, 1998 in Juba in Sudan, Africa. He and his family escaped Sudan and fled to Uganda and at the age of 8 and moved to Australia settling in Melbourne. He grew up playing soccer and track and wasn’t introduced to basketball until he was 14 and the Sunshine Longhorns was the first team he ever played for. He then played high school basketball for the Waverly Falcons and in his last year averaged 26.2ppg, 9.6rpg, 3.7apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 46.2%, 3PT: 35.5%, FT: 75.4%. Not everyone is so lucky, but in 2013, he landed a rare scholarship and played basketball at Victory Rock in Bradenton, Florida. In his 2 years there he averaged 22/8 and 19/8 and earned all-state. He had NCAA offers from schools like Florida, Virginia Tech and UConn, but ultimately chose to attend Louisville and play for coaching legend Rick Pitino. He played at Louisville from 2015-2018 playing a total of 89 games. He had some misfortune getting injured in his freshman year after becoming a starter and came back 5 weeks later. He scored in double figures in 4 games averaging 4,0ppg and 2,1rpg and his biggest highlight in his freshman year was helping defeat powerhouse Duke 71-64 contributing 12 points and dueling against many future NBA players like Jayson Tatum and Brandon Ingram. ‘I remember that game being at home. I was hurt half the season and I began to play toward the end of the season. That game was a serious confidence booster for me. It showed me that I belonged. Grayson Allen later was a top NBA draft pick. I kept working on my game’, stressed Deng Adel. In his junior year he made a massive jump in his game playing 33 games averaging 12.1ppg, 4.5rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 46.9%, 3PT: 34.9%, FT: 77.1%. He scored in double figures in 22 games. Not many guys can say they beat Duke twice in a career, but he did it again 81-77 steering 22 points and belonged to the best on the court that day with Tatum and Luke Kennard and left teammate Donovan Mitchell in the shadow who only produced 8 points. Rick Pitino played a huge role for him being able to develop so rapidly in his first 2 years. ‘I appreciated his work ethic the most. I also enjoyed seeing him every day in his office and him always working out. He was a very intense coach. I believe that it helped me that I had had an intense high school coach. That prepared me to play for Pitino. It wasn’t always easy for guys to adjust to his style, because he was always yelling so much. I think I was able to. Some guys shut off and couldn’t focus because of his yelling. He is a defensive coach and you always had to be locked in’, remembered Deng Adel. He made another big jump in his last season leading the team in scoring averaging 14.9ppg, 5.2rpg, 2.8apg, FGP: 50.2%, 3PT: 35.0%, FT: 78.6%. He had to end his NCAA career in the NIT against Mississippi State and won’t forget it. ‘That was a tough loss especially because it was my last game. We had a special group of guys that were close. Losing like that wasn’t easy, but there was a lot going on that season’, said Deng Adel. He scored in double figures in 31 games including hitting Virginia Tech for 27 points, and 20 points a piece against North Carolina and North Carolina State. In his last season he learned from new head coach David Padgett who helped him raise his game once again. ‘Coach Padgett did a great job. He came in when coach Pitino left. He had been an assistant coach and this was his first head coaching job. We nominated him for head coach. He had a similar style to Pitino. He was very encouraging and kept the group close. It was a tough time because so much was going on off the court’, stated Deng Adel. He also will never forget the daily battles in practice with future NBA player Jordan Nwora. ‘I won the 1-1 battles then. I’m so happy for how his career has gone. I spoke to him only a week ago. He was very talented then and could score. He was young then and still trying to figure out his role. He should of left after his sophomore season, but respect to him for coming back and getting better. He is an NBA champion now’, stated Deng Adel.
The small forward who lists Donovan Mitchell, Raymond Spaulding, Chris Boucher, Quinton Synder, and Mangok, Mathiang as his 5 best teammates of all-time turned professional in 2018 and began to play NBA Summer League for the Houston Rockets averaging 8.3ppg, 1.8rpg, 1.3apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 57.9%. He then signed a training camp contract with the Toronto Raptors and then landed with the Raptors 905 (G League) and played 24 games averaging 12.5ppg, 5.5rpg, 2.5apg, FGP: 47.5%, 3PT: 30.0%, FT: 76.9%. He had some super games in his first months in the G-League scoring 25 points against Texas and 22 points against Ft Wayne. On January 15th 2016 he signed a 2 way deal with the Cavs. He would play his first NBA game 4 days later against Denver scoring a three pointer and hauling down 2 rebounds. That season he didn’t have one wake up call to being in the NBA, but almost daily as he was always active off the court something you don’t see overseas. ‘I remember playing at the G League showcase in Las Vegas. It is a 2 game showcase with no fans, but only scouts and teams watching. I played very well in those 2 games averaging something like 25,0ppg. Coming in I had had no work out with the Cavs, but the next morning had breakfast with them after my first game performance. They wanted to get to know me. After me second game, the Mavericks, the Spurs and Clippers wanted to talk to me. Then I flew to Toronto and my agent told me to stay ready, because I had offers. I may have to pack and be gone. I was back at 5 Am in Toronto and the next day was on my way to Cleveland. Then I flew to Utah where my ex Louisville teammate Donovan Mitchell played and met up with my team the Cavs. I didn’t suit up that game, but I was in the NBA. Suddenly I was in a NBA locker room. It was crazy. I was a 2 way player and in the NBA. I was traveling so much and living out of a suitcase’, remembered Deng Adel. The Cavs team was very young in his time there and he did the best he could to get minutes. He was very fortunate to call ultimate NBA veteran Channing Frye a teammate and obviously tried to soak up as much as possible from him. ‘We had 100% meaningful conversations. Channing was one of the cooler teammates that I have been around. He loves gaming and has that childish personality. He was always positive and had been in the NBA for a while. I think that that was his last season. I could approach him about anything. Another guy that was important with the Cavs for me was fellow Australian Matt Dellavedova. I had known him a bit from home. He was also very cool and helped a lot off the court’, smiled Deng Adel. His minutes were up and down, but that is normal in the NBA. In his time there he only helped win 4 of 18 games, but there is one game he will remember. ‘I played sporadic minutes. It was difficult and hard to adjust to. I tried to find a flow. I think the funnest game for me in the NBA was playing against the Chicago Bulls. I got in around the 15 minute mark. We didn’t win much, but we won that game. I was happy that my family was at that game and were able to watch me play long minutes. I also remember how tough the travel was for my body. I remember playing a very physical 76ers team and then getting into Orlando at 3 am and having top play the next day. I really felt my body the next day. The travel was tough as you played every other day’, added Deng Adel. In his time with the Cavs he also played with the Canton Charge (NBA G League) averaging 12.1ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 49.0%, 3PT: 32.3%, FT: 77.8. He scored 22 points against Erie and 20 points against his ex team Raptors 905. In the summer of 2019 he played NBA Summer League again for the Houston Rockets averaging 8.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.4apg, FGP: 47.1%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 80.0%. In his second professional season he was cut by the Brooklyn Nets and played the season with their farm team Long Island Nets (NBA G League) playing 29 games averaging 11.1ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 53.7%, 3PT: 30.8%, FT: 78.7%. He had massive games against the Raptors 905 netting 29 points and hit College Park for 27 points. Getting a NBA call up is never easy especially when you aren’t scoring 30 points every night. ‘I think not having consistency played a part in me not getting a NBA call up. I feel like I had a different role than usual there. I had different type of shots in that offense. But I still think that I had a solid season’, expressed Deng Adel.
In the 2020-2021 season, the African forward that lists Kobe, Jordan, Durnat, Lebron, and Curry on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore decided to take a break from finding his NBA dream and returned home to Australia to suit up for the Illawarra Hawks (Australia-NBL) playing 23 games averaging 5.9ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 38.0%, 3PT: 20.3%, FT: 79.3%. He had some solid games against SE Melbourne scoring 17 points and netted 19 points against Adelaide, but overal this was a season to forget. ‘That was a difficult situation. I had a different role than usual and I also was going through some personal issues and wasn’t locked in the way I should have been. It was a very tough year for me mentally. I would love to play in Australia again. I haven’t been able to play in front of family and friends so often’, commented Deng Adel. After a year down under, he had the itch again to go back to the States and try his luck at the NBA and played with the Maine Celtics (G-League) averaging 6.6ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 63.5%, 3PT: 21.6%, FT: 80.0%. After a rough season down under, he didn’t fair that much better with Maine. He had his moment scoring in double figures in 9 games including 18 points and 13 rebounds against Canton and 17 points against Windy City. As usual not getting consistent minutes was the main problem. In a 4 game span in February he almost averaged 40 minutes per game while other times he hardly got minutes including 6 games where he had under 10 minutes. ‘It is definitely tough in the G-League with minutes. You have to find a way to stay engaged mentally. There is so much movement in the G-League. Teams have pressure to play the NBA guys. You may play 35 minutes one game and only 10 minutes the next. You have to find out your role quickly. Sometimes it just takes longer. You just have to continue to work, be positive and stay ready. It is the same in the NBA. You may not play 10 games and then start a game. You have to stay locked in mentally’, warned Deng Adel. Despite having ups and downs, he will always cherish special moments with teammates and assistant coach Awvee Storey. ‘He was awesome. He works very well as a primary with players on and off the court. I remember doing extra work with him and grabbing food afterwards’, said Deng Adel. After 3 years of being in the NBA business, he agrees with just about every other guy that played there that the NBA will always be a business first before anything else. ‘I think that the best example is simply all the movement that happens. My rookie season with Toronto, I played a lot in the G-League. I was a 2 way player. They always want to see the young guys and NBA guys that are sent down first. Every player goes through this’, commented Deng Adel. He finally had a positive experience after 2 tough seasons last summer playing in the up and coming CEBL league in Canada for the Ottawa Blackjacks. He totally exploded averaging 16.1ppg, 6.0rpg, 4.5apg, FGP: 51.3%, 3PT: 38.8%, FT: 81.6%. It was his best scoring season since high school in Australia. ‘Playing for Ottawa was very special. My season with Maine was up and down and I was also hurt. I felt last summer that it was most important for me to focus on game experience instead of just working out all summer. I watched a lot of film as well. Coming to play with Ottawa was one of my best decisions. They let me do my thing’, remembered Deng Adel. He wasted no time showing his worth exploding for 37 points and 7 three’s against Fraser Valley and his zeal to play was huge. ‘It was the first game and I was very excited to play. Sometimes excitement can go left or right. I came out excited and they were backing off me. I had worked on my shot a lot at that time and it was just a matter of confidence. Some guys see shots going in and then you get that feeling that you can’t miss’, stressed Deng Adel. He also scored 30 points against Edmonton and 27 points apiece against Niagara and Fraser Valley.
The talented player who believes Jordan is the Goat and thinks the sequel to the classic movie Coming to America should have been left alone has started a new basketball chapter in Denmark with top Danish team Bakken Bears that also duel in the Basketball Champions League. He got a rude welcome to Germany a few days ago losing 99-58 to the MHP Riesen in a Basketball Champions Leavue game where he scored 5 points in 14 minutes. ‘I have began to follow the BBL more. My friend Justin Simon played in Germany and told me that the league is amazing. He told me that a lot of guys from the G-League play there, and that my style fits it’, said Deng Adel. It surprised me that a player with his back-round landed in Denmark as I would expected the ACB or Italy, but he is pleased about his new team. ‘I think that coming to Bakken was the best situation for me. Being able to play for their coaches and the role I was getting fit my style. It is a smaller market but Bakken a lot of talented players. Denmark has been great. Something like 80% speak English. It has been easy to settle in and I’m able to focus well on my career’, stated Deng Adel. He is 100% confident that he will be able to play his game to the satisfaction of the coaching staff and himself. ‘We have experienced guys as well as younger guys who have energy and push the pace. My role will be being a primary initiator being able to show my scoring qualities, defense and getting out on transition. I think that my game will translate well. I have to make sure to make the right reads and finding my shots as well as making the right decisions and pushing the ball. I need to get used to the traveling call. We have a G League feel on the team. We play at a high pace and we are allowed to make decisions based on our skills’, expressed Deng Adel. The athletic high flyer who appreciates the strong leadership skills and easygoing manner of teammate Skyler Bowlin believes he can take some of that scoring power from Canada to Denmark and make an impact. ‘I definitely I feel like I can score at a high rate. It is still early and we have to get used to each other. We are still figuring things out on when to shoot and when to be aggressive. It will only be a matter of time before I get used to the style. Of course his main focus are the Bakken Bears but he would be lying if his NBA dream was over now. ‘My ultimate goal remains the NBA. I’m just taking a different route now. My focus is to continue to get better each year. I feel like I’m still young enough to get back. It always depends on the best situation. Each season is different. I have to take it a year at a time’, warned Deng Adel. One thing is for sure no matter wherever the place will be that I finally meet Deng Adel again, I will definitely not be a little kid in a candy store, but moreover like a veteran wine connoisseur and know exactly who he is.