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Basketball 24/7: DENG OVER THE MOON

09/18/2008 

LUOL Deng does not often show his emotions but the Chicago Bulls superstar made no attempt to conceal them in the locker room after GB qualified for Eurobasket 2009 on Wednesday. 

The GB talisman, winner now of nine of his ten international games, conceded that this was not his or his country’s greatest ever performance.

In fact, there was a compelling argument to be made that it was up there among the worst since Deng came on board with the GB programme in 2007.

But it is a measure of how much this team has improved – ever over the past two weeks – that they were able to scrap out a 67-63 victory to clinch Group D.

“I’m just so happy we did it,” said Deng. “We’ve got Bosnia to come, of course, but the main thing is we have won the group.

“It wasn’t easy but we got it done. We knew it was going to be tough and you could tell they were definitely playing to stay alive in the group.

“We made mistakes and it was really similar to the Israel game in many ways. Somehow, this time we managed to hold on at the end.

“We stuck with it and sometimes that’s how you win games. It is a sign of how far we have come.”

For someone who has played in NBA play-off games and an NCAA Final Four, the GB achievements might seem modest.

But Deng is not simply paying lip service when he describes his delight at being a key part on the first ever GB team to reach this level.

“This is definitely up there with my other achievements,” said Deng. “Since I was a kid, growing up in London and trying to find the European Championships on TV, I wondered why we couldn’t have a GB team in it.

“It hurt not having my country in it. Now we’ve got a chance to play in it next year.

“That was what this was all about. As a child, I’d dream about doing things like this and now it’s coming true thanks to all our hard work.”

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