Blair Academy of New Jersey is one of the most watched high school teams in the country. The reasons are pretty simple -- Charlie Villanueva and Luol Deng.
There is a marked contrast to the styles though of both players. It's important to note there is no right or wrong way to do it -- Villanueva and Deng are very effective in the way they present their games on the court.
Villanueva is more of a verbal leader, someone who will pump his team up with emotion after a thundering dunk (as he did this past Saturday against a richly talented Worcester Academy program). Deng is just the opposite emotionally of Charlie. He runs as hard and scores as much as Villanueva, but rarely do you get much emotion out of Deng.
And it's okay. Deng is such a smart player too. He is like a surgeon on the court. Deng, a terrific passer, is never afraid to take a shot or try a jumper when it is needed. He carries a quiet confidence around. Deng is constantly looking for cutting teammates but also realizes he needs to get his touches too.
Deng is like a point forward. He is good enough to play the small forward slot. Deng is also skilled enough to take the ball up against pressure if needed. It's rare you get to see a player with so many skills on the high school level but Deng is the exception for sure.
Deng, 6-8, 217-pounds, also has the strength to play inside at the four slot. It would probably though be wise to utilize him at the three spot since he has perimeter skills. Deng said he is fairly open in his recruiting. He did say he is interested in Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Villanova, Missouri, Florida and George Washington.
Deng said he has a sister who attends Maryland and cited Karl Hobbs as a big factor for his affinity with George Washington. Deng's older brother, Ajou Ajou, played at UConn where Hobbs was an assistant coach. He has since transferred to Fairfield.
As a sophomore at Blair, Deng averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and five assists per game. This season he is matching those statistics. He will be closely watched over the next two years not only by college coaches but also by NBA scouts. They have already been showing up at his games.
We already know that Charlie Villanueva is interested in jumping out of high school to the NBA. Could we have two players from the same high school jump to the NBA? You can bet that in the Spring of 2003, there will be some speculation on whether this happens.
*Obviously, it's a long time from now until 2003 Spring. And the players that were drafted out of high school last year have not performed well so far this season.