Deng Deng is "bank shot" for this week's athlete of the week

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

FORT TOTTEN – The (1) Four Winds/Minnewaukan Indians have a problem on their hands. 

Of course, not every problem should be met with a collective sigh, especially for the top-ranked Class B boys basketball team. In fact, Four Winds/Minnewaukan’s problem is the dead opposite of a bad one.  

The problem, you might ask? While the Indians have a ton of talent in the starting lineup and off the bench, they also have raw youth. This youth, of course, does not blossom without the necessary guidance and seasoning. But, with a bit of time and hard work, the results eventually reveal themselves. 

The epitome of this youth comes in the form of sophomore forward Deng Deng, who took home this week’s “Athlete of the Week” honor. 

Helping his team clinch the Ramsey Invitational against North Star on Jan. 10 was undoubtedly one sign of Deng’s influence on the court, even as a sophomore. Another indication came from his dunking dominance inside the paint and glass on Jan. 14 against Hillsboro/Central Valley, where Deng compiled a double-double (31 points, 11 rebounds). 

However, Deng’s production has dwelled past his presence on the court. To Four Winds/Minnewaukan head coach Rick Smith, Deng’s willingness to take the initiative and put in more practice time has been what has stood out the most. 

“He [Deng] is always in the gym and is always working on something he needs to improve on, whether it is in the weight room…and he does a lot of that on his own,” Smith said. “He is a kid that wants to be in the gym or the weight room all of the time, and he has done a lot of that on his own, and anytime you want to be good at a job, you have to put in the extra time. He has been a prime example of that.” 

It will be business as usual for Deng as he looks to help his team continue its torrid stretch to begin the 2021-22 campaign. But, no matter what the 2021-22 verdict ends up being, Deng will stick to his routine and continue to improve as winter transitions into spring and spring into summer. 

Whether it be this year or beyond, Deng’s youth and drive to get better will only give the Indians more reason to develop and refine him into an even better basketball player. 

Consider it a not-too-shabby problem to have. 

“There is always something he can work on, whether it is at the free-throw line or whether it is in his game outside [or] whether it is improving on his defense,” Smith said. “It is a lot of little things he needs to continue to improve on. He will go out and do it if I tell him to, and if we tell him this is what you need to work on, this is what you need to improve on. Deng is going to put in a full summer again, just like he always does. Whether he is playing in tournaments or whether he is in the weight room…he is going to continue to do that.” 

Congratulations to Deng and Zach White (Devils Lake Boys Hockey) for being nominated. 

The Devils Lake Journal hosts its “Athlete of the Week” contest weekly. Athlete nominations are based on the athlete’s performance from the prior week. Ballot nominations are submitted from Saturday morning to Monday at 10:00 a.m. Finalist voting starts Monday at noon and ends Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. CT, assuming more than one finalist has been cast.

The following programs can nominate an athlete for the honor: Devils Lake, Four Winds/Minnewaukan, North Star/Starkweather, Langdon/Edmore/Munich, Benson County, Nelson County, Dakota Prairie, Lakota, New Rockford-Sheyenne and Lake Region State College. Nominations will vary depending on the time of the season. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter for the release of the weekly ballot. 

Voting results: 

-      Deng Deng, Boys Basketball, Four Winds/Minnewaukan: 57 votes (81.4%) 

-      Zach White, Boys Hockey, Devils Lake: 13 votes (18.6%) 

Contact John Crane via email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter @johncranesports)