Since the spring, when he lost his oldest brother, the family patriarch, Majok Deng has been getting through school, recruiting and basketball with a heavy heart.
It’s been tough, but, with his mom, three other brothers and his Salpointe Catholic (Tuscon, Ariz.) extended family, the 6-foot-5 senior is putting up numbers Lual would be proud of.
Salpointe is 15-1 with Deng averaging 18.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 assists per game.
“He was the father figure, the head of the household,” said Majok, who made azcentral sports’ first-team All-Arizona team last season and recently committed to Pepperdine. “We became closer. He brought everyone out to the state championship game (in Phoenix) last year.”
Less than a month after scoring 33 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in an 80-75 overtime win over Buckeye, which put Salpointe into the 4A final against Phoenix Shadow Mountain, Majok’s brother was shot and killed in Phoenix.
He was turning 27, Majok said.
“I didn’t play basketball for a couple of weeks after that,” Majok said. “But I realized that if he was here, he would have told me basketball is going to be your only choice, your escape.”
When the Dengs came here as refugees from South Sudan, they were separated from their father, who was a soldier. That’s where the oldest brother filled the role.
Not just Majok, 17, but Deng, Ajang, and Leek all looked up to Lual.
“I feel I have a voice in my house,” Majok said. “I can certain things that I think can help our family grow. I have two older brothers (Deng and Ajang) working and they try to guide us. We’re just trying to take care of each other and tell each other the right things.
“My mother is a healer. She’s doing everything she can to be the mother and the father.”