It had already been a great week for Deng Adel.
Ranked as the nation’s 47th best prospect by Rivals.com, he entered the July live evaluation period with big-name schools on his trail. With a series of strong performances at the Adidas Unrivaled camp in Chicago, the versatile 6-foot-8 small forward made a name for himself against some of the nation’s elite players. Adel looked poised to make a leap in the next set of recruiting rankings, with murmurs around the gym hinting at top-25 potential.
And to sweeten the deal, Adel committed to the Louisville Cardinals and head coach Rick Pitino on Monday.
Pitino and his assistants were front and center for all of Adel’s games last week, making him their top priority at the start of open evaluation. Already heavily intrigued by the school, Adel took notice and reciprocated with a phone call to a “very excited” Pitino on Monday.
“I was ready about a week ago, but was kind of waiting for the right moment,” Adel said. “They showed they were really interested and how much they wanted me to join them. After the camp, I thought it was the best time.”
Adel held scholarship offers that included defending national champion UConn and Florida. But Louisville became the clear fit for Adel, who averaged 22 points and eight rebounds last season at Victory Rock Prep in Bradenton, Fla. He took an unofficial visit to campus last month and was struck by the city-wide passion for college hoops.
“I looked at the positions that were empty for them and they needed a guy with my type of versatility that could play on the wing,” Adel said. “Coach Pitino is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest. Everything comes through hard work [for him]. He’s just a guy you can trust.”
It’s been quite a journey for Adel, who was born in war-torn South Sudan and left the country with his family at age six “to get an education and have a better life.” His first love was soccer, where he played on the right wing. Adel also ran track as a kid. In 2009, Adel took to basketball, and the development of his skill set over the past several years has been astonishing. He came over to Victory Rock Prep in 2013 at the beginning of his junior year, hoping for increased exposure to high-level colleges.
Another factor in Adel’s recruitment was the presence of fellow Sudanese-Australian and long-time friend Mangok Mathiang, Louisville’s rising junior center whom Adel called “family.” While at IMG Academy, Mathiang played under Loren Jackson, Adel’s current high school coach and guardian. Having a familiar face in the fold made it that much easier, he said.
Adel has garnered comparisons to Miami Heat forward Luol Deng, another native of Sudan with a smooth, well-rounded game and lanky frame. He becomes the first member of Pitino’s 2015 recruiting class.