Juke’s Journey Continues from Sudan to a Pepperdine Commitment

Salpointe Catholic forward Majok Deng had over 20 offers from some of the top programs in the country. His offers included Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and Vanderbilt, but he made his commitment Thursday night to Pepperdine.

Former Arizona assistant coach and Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar, who recruited Deng heavily while with the Wildcats, is in his first year as the Waves’ head coach. 

“It was truly all about Coach Romar and what kind of a person he is,” Deng said. “I just felt like he really fits my personality and who I really am and the type of player I want to be.”

Before we look too far ahead to his future with the Waves, we need to look back at where he’s been and how he got here. 

“Juke” came to the United States with part of his family in 2011 as refugees from South Sudan. A portion of his family stayed back to fight in the country’s civil war. He didn’t pick up a basketball until he got to Tucson, and he has never looked back. 

He developed into one of the best players on Salpointe Catholic and Powerhouse Hoops AAU team. His family got acclimated to America and Deng thrived. He faced another challenge when his brother was shot and killed in Phoenix earlier this year. You can learn more about Juke’s Journey in this documentary produced by Sports360AZ, which originally aired in 2017 and was updated this April.

Deng felt good about Pepperdine, but it was actually his mother, Akech, who sealed the deal for the Waves. Juke said his mother would never talk about colleges as he navigated his recruitment, but while on a visit to Malibu earlier this month, she said something that he will never forget.

“She said, ‘Juke, I think this coach and this school has something for you,'” Juke said. “Especially being a Christian school, I’ve always been at religious schools. She said, ‘I think this is the spot for you.'”

Juke’s college choice would never be just about basketball for the Deng family, though. The college the family landed on would set up Juke academically as well as he pursues a career in immigration law.

“They are one of the top schools in that. When I visited, I fell in love with their law school and I think I could really be a part of it,” Deng said.

Deng even met with the dean of the Pepperdine law school while on his visit.

“We really bonded and had a great connection right away. I think he can really help me.”

Now, Deng sets his sights on a senior season with the Lancers as they attempt to make another state title run in 2019. The forward averaged 17.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as a junior and helped lead Salpointe Catholic to back-to-back 4A state title game appearances. As a senior, he hopes to help the Lancers take home a state title and prepare for his future at Pepperdine.

“As a student, I just need to be on top of my studies,” Deng said. “As a basketball player, I think I have a lot to work on. It’s a big stage. Everywhere, college basketball is going to be different, especially knowing Coach Romar will be a part of this program.”