Rising Stars of Aussie Hoops: Gak emerges from the pack

When the Australian Development Camp invitations were distributed in November of 2013, there’s no doubt that Deng Gak was excited to see his name among those attending. The 15-year-old Australian of Sudanese heritage had never attended an Australian camp prior to his selection, so the general public exhibited a certain uncertainty about him; most probably because his rise through the junior ranks came without a lot of fanfare.

Australian junior star Deng Gak with NBA star Luol Deng - Courtesy of Deng Gak

Fast forward to just a few months later; Gak is now at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (CoE) after recently receiving a scholarship to the renowned institution.

Standing at an imposing 6’9", the power forward hails from Blacktown, a suburb in Western Sydney. Gak is a natural athlete who excels at blocking shots and rebounding on both ends of the floor. His post-game has improved over the past year, with his improved footwork playing a factor in his ability to score on the low block consistently. Gak is an extremely raw prospect and is still coming to terms at playing a higher level of basketball. He’ll need to improve his hands and will also need to add some bulk to his frame in order to set screens more effectively; two things that I’m sure will be addressed under the guidance of Boomers Coach Andrej Lemanis at the CoE this year.

Gak didn’t start 2013 too well. At the annual East Coast Challenge, Gak broke his ankle quite severely and missed a significant amount of time from basketball. The injury kept him out of basketball for the majority of the year and therefore he missed out on potential opportunities to represent New South Wales Metro at the U16 Australian Junior Championships (AJC) and ultimately was overlooked for any National squad duties.

Though it was the beginning of 2013 that provided Gak with bad luck, it was the start of 2014 where it seemed his luck had changed for the better. At the very same tournament where he broke his ankle a year earlier, Gak was out to prove that he could compete with the best in the country, and he did just that. After some solid play throughout the tournament, he managed to impress Andrej Lemanis who had arrived at the tournament on its final day to check out the prospects. The big-man managed to impress Lemanis enough for him to offer Gak a scholarship to attend the CoE.

Gak joins Isaac Humphries, Jock Perry and Harry Froling as the promising big-men that will represent the CoE in this year’s SEABL competition and will most likely compete for a spot in the Australian U17 Men’s team that will compete at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships in Dubai in August. He possesses an extremely humble nature, a quality that will no doubt help his progression in both his athletic endeavors and his life in general. It’ll be interesting to see how he improves over the year. If all goes to plan, we’ll be seeing him in green and gold soon enough.