In his first game since being offered a scholarship by Arizona’s Sean Miller, Salpointe Catholic sophomore Majok Deng scored 20 points in the second half of Friday’s impressive victory over host Sierra Vista Buena, the state’s No. 1-ranked Class 5A team.
Deng, who finished with 23, had a lot of help from his teammates: Alec McCall scored 19, Rylan O’Brien 15 and Cam Miller 11.
Friday’s game meant two things: Deng has become the most coveted Tucson prep basketball player since Sunnyside’s Deron Johnson in 1990, and the Lancers are a serious contender for the school’s first-ever state championship in 67 years.
Coach Brian Holstrom’s team, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, is just 10-6 overall, but four of those six losses came against Class 6A opponents in Phoenix, including two games against 21-0 and No. 2 Basha, and teams from Utah and California.
Deng, a 6-foot 5-inch wing player who moved to Tucson from a South Sudan refugee camp in Kenya six years ago, has offers from, among others, Arizona State and Georgia Tech, and is likely to be a Top 50 prospect in the Class of 2019.
Incredibly, if you go back 50 years, to the 1965-66 Arizona basketball team, the Wildcats have only offered (and landed) four Tucson prospects, including Cholla’s Sean Elliott in 1985, who forever changed Arizona’s basketball trajectory.
- Sahuaro’s David Haskin, who started 29 games between 1983-86, and played for Lute Olson’s first Pac-10 championship team.
- CDO’s 7-1 Brian Jung, who only scored three points before transferring to Northwestern in 1977 and becoming a standout.
- Sunnyside’s Johnson, who couldn’t crack the starting lineup and left school after the ’93 season with a 3.8 career scoring average.
Many other Tucsonans became star-level players elsewhere, including UTEP’s Dave Feitl of Santa Rita; ASU’s Lafayette Lever of Pueblo; and Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin of Santa Rita. But it’s ironic how the UA’s link with Tucsonans has changed over those 50 years.
The ’65-66 team, for example, had three key players from Tucson: Flowing Wells’ Patrick McAndrew, Marana’s Tom Sutton and Tucson’s Mike Aboud.
And over the next five years, before McKale Center opened, the Wildcat roster was loaded with contributing Tucsonans, including Catalina’s Mickey Foster and Pueblo’s Eddie Myers. Foster scored 966 points; Myers 832.
But then the pipeline went dry. Only Elliott and Sunnyside’s Greg Cook, who began his career at Eastern Arizona College and then Pima College, have been regular starters on scholarship.
Now comes Deng, whose team figures to fight it out with two-time state champion Phoenix Shadow Mountain, coached by Arizona legend Mike Bibby, for the Class 4A title. Small world: Bibby’s team includes Jaelen House, his nephew and the son of ex-Arizona State scoring champion Eddie House.
But that’s a story for another day. Deng has 2½ seasons of high school basketball remaining in which he might give chase to Stoglin’s city scoring record of 2,901 points.