Luol Deng, small forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers and figurehead for basketball in the UK, has spoken to GiveMeSport about his 'You Are Basketball' campaign, while he offered some sensible advice to any youngsters wishing to emulate his path to the NBA.
Deng impressed from an early age following his emigration from Egypt to Brixton, south London, representing England at U-16 and U-19 level. More recently, he was an ambassador for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Asked how important it is to represent Great Britain, Deng had this to say:
"Great Britain is my home, it is where I learnt to play basketball. When I pull on that jersey I am always so proud. My family still live in London, it’s given us a lot so I feel this is my way of repaying the country that took us all in as refugees."
Considering that Great Britain has only produced 11 NBA players (including three foreign-born British players) throughout its 68-year history, Deng is part of an exclusive club. With this in mind, Deng had some advice for any aspiring starlet.
"I would say don’t cheat the game. You have to really love the game and put in the hours where I strongly believe hard work always rewards you," he explained. "Stay humble, work as much as you can on your skills and never settle – keep pushing yourself."
In an attempt to give back to those institutions that kick-started his basketball career, Deng is fronting a campaign entitled "You Are Basketball’ that aims to improve participation in the UK.
"Basketball has given me so much, and by filling in this survey it will help England Basketball give even more kids the chance to enjoy basketball in this country. So we need as many UK ballers as possible to let us know about how and why they play basketball. It doesn’t take that long to fill out and you get the chance to come and see me play in an NBA game next year!"
Deng is determined to unearth the hidden talent on these shores, starting with his home town of Brixton, where he's overseeing the construction of a basketball academy.
"The UK has so much talent and we need the world to know that. My Foundation in the UK is working hard to create more opportunities and I’m really excited about launching my first academy in Brixton. I will continue to do what I can to help the sport grow in the UK."
· Complete the interactive #YouAreBasketball survey by 10th May to enter competition
· Winner will meet Luol Deng in America and watch him in the NBA next season
Take part in the survey here: http://youarebasketball.co.uk/survey/