Playing for his native country gave NDSU's Geu an experience in seeing the world
FARGO—For his summer vacation, Deng Geu got on a plane in Fargo, flew to Dallas for a week, got on another plane and flew to Istanbul, Turkey. After spending two weeks there, he boarded a plane for Lagos, Nigeria.
It was all part of the North Dakota State forward playing for his native Uganda in the FIBA World Cup qualifying men's basketball tournament.
"It was a really good experience to see how different people do different things," Geu said. "I think it helped me be a better overall person just seeing what the rest of the world is like. And the competition has given me some confidence and helped me be a better player."
Geu, who will be a junior in the fall, put up impressive numbers averaging 13.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots. His rebounding average led all players in the first round. With a 1-2 record, Uganda was eliminated from the tournament with five of the top 16 African countries advancing to the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
He was a model of consistency in all three games getting 13 points and 12 rebounds in the opener against Nigeria, the top-ranked team in the event. He had 13 points and 12 rebounds against Mali and finished the tourney with 14 points and 10 rebounds in a win against Rwanda.
Geu's path to the tournament started when a representative from Uganda called NDSU head coach Dave Richman during the course of last season.
"It seemed like a really cool thing to do so I was all on board," Geu said. "I was very excited to get to represent the country."
Geu was born in Uganda and moved to the United States in 2003. The graduate from Sioux Falls (S.D.) Washington High School carries dual allegiance after gaining his U.S. citizenship last summer. That was a process that started his freshman year at NDSU.
It was the first time he returned to Africa since he left in 2003. At the FIBA tournament, Geu said one of his teammates just wanted to look at his passport to see what it looked like.
"He said he wanted that one day," Geu said. "Just being here (in the United States) is something people want."
The players on the team from the United States and Canada congregated in Dallas, where they practiced for a week. Then it was to Istanbul where the entire team practiced and played some scrimmage games.
The only other U.S. college player on the team was forward Samuel Kalwanyi from NAIA Wayland Baptist (Texas).
Geu averaged 6.6 points and 3.3 rebounds for the Bison last season. He led the team in blocked shots with 17 and field goal shooting at 62.3 percent. The players have this week off in summer workouts, but Geu will rejoin them next week.
"I definitely think I got better," he said. "I made a lot of friends and made good connections in meeting new people around the world."