It has been a good week for the University of Miami basketball program. First, undrafted former Hurricane Sheldon McClellan made the Washington Wizards final roster. Then, on Tuesday, Deng Gak, a highly-touted 6-9 recruit, announced that he had chosen UM over Kansas and Florida.
Duke, Indiana and UConn were among the other schools that had shown interest in the Sudanese power forward, who was born in Egypt, raised in Australia and attends Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J. He is ranked No. 91 in the 2017 class by Rivals.com. He visited the Kansas campus last weekend, but decided to commit to Miami.
“First off, I’d like to thank my family for supporting me throughout this long process and all the coaches that have recruited me up to this point,” Gak wrote on Twitter. “After thinking long and hard, I’ve decided that the University of Miami is the best fit for me to continue my education and basketball career.”
Gak is Sudanese, like former Miami Heat player Luol Deng, and both are from the Dinka tribe. Deng also attended Blair Academy, and has been a big influence on Gak. He would become the second Australian on the UM team, joining freshman point guard Dejan Vasiljevic. Both played on Australia’s youth national teams.
McClellan, meanwhile, made the final Wizards cut after scoring 20 points in 32 minutes in a double-overtime win against the Philadelphia 76ers last week. He also had four assists, three rebounds and a steal.
“One of the happiest moments of 2016 was to get a text from Tommy Sheppard (Sr. Vice President of the Wizards), and it said, `You have a wall with your NBA players listed and you can now include one more – Sheldon McClellan will be a Washington Wizard this year,’’’ said UM coach Jim Larrañaga. “I’m so happy for him. Deeply deserving of that acknowledgement of his ability to play basketball. He’s such a wonderful kid. I texted him, his mother, his agent.
“He meets all the criteria they look for in the NBA. I think he is on his way to a very long NBA career.”
McClellan posted on Twitter: “Blessed!!! Dream come true was made tonight!!! Excited for my first year and the team.”
UM seniors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy, who played with McClellan last season on the Sweet 16 team, were thrilled with the news.
“I’m extremely happy for him,” Reed said. “That’s the end goal at the end of the day, and to have somebody you played with be there. That’s where we all want to be...It’s good for the younger guys to see a former player in the NBA and people have heard about his work ethic, what it takes and that will definitely inspires some of our players.”
Murphy added: “It’s good to have somebody that close to us in that environment to give us feedback on what to expect, things we need to do to get to that level.”