New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli has been asked by the administrators of Blair Academy to help one of their student/athletes, Luol Deng.
Deng, the versatile and multitalented 6-8 forward/guard from Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., did not play on Saturday night in the Buccaneers' 67-59 victory over St. Benedict's.
Deng is still stuck in London, England -- his adopted home -- due to visa problems.
A Sudanese native, Deng played for English Junior National team while home on winter break. He left Blair for England back on Dec. 19, but he did not go to get his visa renewed until Dec. 31.
Blair Head Coach Joe Mantegna said that Deng could not renew his visa right away because of his participation with the English Junior National squad at a tournament in Poland.
Mantegna said that there is typically a 21 day waiting period with visa renewals, and he said that he has been in touch with both U.S. and British officials to try and speed up the process.
"Senator Torricelli has laid the groundwork to get him back here," Mantegna added. "We are trying to reach some contacts in the Parliament. I've already spoken with the Minister of Sports in Britain and he is trying to help us get Luol back."
But what can Torricelli really do? Rivalshoops.com contacted Torricelli's spokesmen in both New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Both offices indicated to us that they receive these cases each month. They would not speak on the record about this particular case.
But sources tell us that Torricelli does indeed have the case and is working on it. But our sources tell us that the best thing Torricelli can do for Deng is to shed some light on it in the press and badger some people in power about this particular problem. The power of making phone calls and bothering people is probably the senator's best weapon.
Senators and congressmen receive these type of problems on their desk quite a bit, rivalshoops.com was told. But the people at Blair can be confident at least that their representatives are working hard on the case.
Torricelli can not change any laws nor can he erase the memories of September 11th, 2001. Deng is just an unfortunate soul who will have to endure a long process. But this does cut into his schoolwork and his ability to continue to prepare himself for the next level -- college basketball.
Mantegna said that if the British government can persuade U.S. officials to grant Deng "known and favorable status," that he could be back in this country very soon. It's likely that Torricelli is trying to help out in this angle, according to our sources.
If not, Mantegna is crossing his fingers that he could have Luol back by Feb. 1, assuming all of the visa issues can be ironed out to satisfaction.
Mantegna has spoken with Deng several times via the telephone in recent weeks.
"I talk to him a few times a day," the Blair coach told Russ Blake in a previous interview. "He's so upset at this point, because he went back to London to play for his country and now he can't get back here."
Mantegna said that the issue could be resolved if the United States Embassy in England grants Deng known and favorable status. At this point, all British officials can do is to make pleas on Luol's behalf to U.S. officials. Torricelli is likely to have a part in this process too, according to our sources.
The trip to England also affected Deng's future recruiting process. Had Deng not returned to England for the winter break, he was slated to make unofficial visits to Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest, Mantegna said.
We'll keep you posted on this story.