Burlington Central senior forward Moter Deng is enjoying a breakout season for the Rockets boys basketball team after missing most of his junior year with a broken arm. Deng moved to the United States with his father from what is now South Sudan when he was 5 years old. Deng was 6-foot-2 as a sophomore before sprouting to 6-5. In this week’s Weekend Chit-chat with sports editor Jay Schwab, Deng touches base on some connections to his homeland, Rockets coach Brett Porto and the build-up to the postseason. The following is an edited transcript:
With your background, did you follow the situation with the Mooseheart kids pretty closely this year?
Well, I’ve read [media coverage] out there but I’m not that deep into it, but since the start of the year I’ve read a lot about the Mooseheart team.
Were you rooting for those guys to be eligible?
Yeah, I was hoping. They’re from the same country as I am so I guess I was hoping they could play.
Are there any other players from Sudan in this area that you’re aware of at all?
I had two cousins last year, but they graduated. One played at Glenbard West and the other played at Wheaton Academy, but they both graduated.
Has it been hard to remain upbeat with some of these tough losses you guys have had this year?
Yeah, it’s been pretty hard, but coach tries to keep making us stay positive. I feel we can change our season if we started playing defense.
Has that been a teamwide sore spot?
Yeah, we need to start communicating better. We don’t talk at all. That’s what we lack as a team.
Who would say is the toughest guy to guard on your team one-on-one?
I think Ryan Ritchie is because he’s such a good shooter. You have to respect his shot and he has a good shot fake so I think he’s one of the hardest, one of the toughest players to guard.
Coach Porto was a heck of a player in his day. Can he still play a little bit?
Yeah, he’s pretty good shooter and he still has some speed sometimes. He plays with us in practice but he hasn’t been playing with us much lately.
What’s your least favorite drill to do during practice?
I think the NBA drill (stands for No Babies Allowed). … It’s a drill where you’re not allowed to dribble. We have to make 10 passes and we have to stay inside the 3-point line and if you get fouled, you have to fight through it. It’s pretty tough trying to get through the screens defensively, and it’s tough to get the passes off with defenders in your face, and you can’t dribble the ball.
Is there a game you’re most looking forward to the rest of the season?
Well, I’m looking forward to regionals. Regionals is like a new season. When the playoffs start, record doesn’t matter, and the team that wants it the most [advances]. I’ve never gotten to play in a playoff game in my high school career.