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