IN THE SPOTLIGHT
He’s one of those front-and-center players.
Dynamic and highly skilled, Deng Deng Kur has a way of standing out even on an extremely talented Glenbrook North boys soccer team chalked full of dynamos.
Just check out two of his last three games.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound forward put his explosiveness on display in the Northside College Showcase at New Trier. In the third-place game on Sept. 2, he came up with a hat trick in a 5-0 win over Buffalo Grove.
A few days earlier in the tourney, he went “Deng, Deng, Deng” in a 5-0 win over Niles West.
With the two hat tricks, Deng leads the Spartans with seven goals. Thus, he’s quickly closing in on his goal total (11) from a year ago.
“He has taken his game to another level,” said Glenbrook North coach Paul Vignocchi. “He’s so crafty. Such a smart player.”
But what makes Kur even more unique is his fascinating backstory.
He was born in North London in 1999 — soon after his parents fled South Sudan. His brother, Teng, is a former professional player (Cedar Rapid Rampage) who currently coaches with the Chicago Sockers.
And, there’s this. He’s got a cousin that’s relatively famous in these parts: former Chicago Bull and current Los Angeles Laker Luol Deng.
“First cousin. Not brother,” said a firm, yet polite, Kur, who lives with a host family in Northbrook. “Another newspaper wrote that he’s my brother. I don’t know who told them that.
“But I have to admit that I’m a little uncomfortable with it,” he added. “I never said that he was my brother. I want to clear that up.”
What’s also clear is that the two athletes have remained “fairly” close.
“I’m not in constant contact with him,” said Kur. “There’s a big age difference [and height difference, Luol is 6-9]. But he’s family. We talk to each other at family events.”
While “Cousin” has made a name for himself in the NBA — a two-time all-star with the Bulls — soccer continues to be the field of expertise for Kur.
He’s been very good in the past. Now, he’s special.
“He builds our attack,” said Vignocchi. “He’s got the ability to score from anywhere on the field.
“He’s not going to kill you with his speed,” the coach added. “He’s not a fast player. But he always knows where the ball is. He does a great job of recognizing what’s going on.”
Kur’s passing — both the look and no-look varieties — and ball control certainly were outstanding in the win over Buffalo Grove. Over and over again, he used his quarterback qualities to hold the ball and set up teammates.
“I’m able to see the gaps,” said Kur, who played his club soccer with FC United. “And developing my left foot at a young age has helped me a lot.”
Kur is a constant threat for opposing goalies and defenders. He’s always lurking — around the net.
His third goal against BG was brilliantly played. Junior Max Marquez dug the ball out of the right corner, scissored his way toward the goal and dumped it off the ever-present Kur for an easy tap-in.
“I love the way these guys are finding each other,” said GBN assistant coach Rob Demano.
“Deng has an incredible sense for the game,” Demano added. “What he does out there makes us better. He’s done a lot of work on his own, and it’s paying off and helping the team a ton.”
“He’s a very likeable kid with a great personality,” said Demano. “He’s got an infectious personality.”
Last year, that kind of charisma was not so evident.
“He was in a little different frame of mind last year,” said Demano. “He was a little more reserved.
“I wish this Deng was with us last year,” added Demano, with a smile. “He knows what I’m saying. We’ve talked about it.”
According to Michael Siboni, a former GBN player and current videographer, Kur has taken his effervescent spirit into the hallways at Glenbrook North.
“He’s very popular at school,” said Siboni, a Denmark native who also came to the States four years ago. “Everybody loves him. He’s friendly. He’s always smiling.”
Kur’s smile especially broadened when he completed his hat trick against BG.
“I love getting the ball and scoring it,” said Kur, who lists Frenchman Theirry Henry as his favorite pro soccer player. “Anything for a goal. It’s been that way for me since I started playing as a four-year-old.
“I know they’re in me,” he added. “I just have to get them out.”
Just what the opposition wanted to hear.
Notable: The Spartans (4-1-1 overall) went 2-1-1 in the showcase. Their wins came over Niles West 5-0 and Buffalo Grove 5-0, while they lost to Lyons 2-1 and tied Libertyville 0-0. Libertyville went on to beat New Trier 5-2 in the title match on Sept. 2. … So far, GBN’s leading scorers include Deng Deng Kur (7 goals, 3 assists), Sahill Modi (5 goals, 1 assist), Max Marquez (4 goals, 2 assists) and Robbie Fraser (2 goals, 3 assists). … Senior goalkeeper Daniel Spencer has notched three shutouts, while he shared a shutout with sophomore Nick Washelesky in the win over BG.