Earlier this month Allstate and the NABC announced their 2014 Good Works Team (which recognizes players for their commitment to community service). One of the five D-1 players selected was Penn guard Dau Jok, who has overcome the loss of many loved ones to go to an Ivy League university and help people in his home country of Sudan. CHD’s Jon Teitel got to sit down with Dau to chat about all that he has accomplished so far and what is next on his to-do list.
Your father was murdered when you were just six years old, your grandfather was killed just a few years ago, and your uncle Manute Bol died in 2010: how have you dealt with all of the losses in your life? I have had some incredible people in my life who have tremendously helped me, from mentors in my past to the Penn community all around me in the present. After my grandfather passed away the Penn players/coaches called me every day for a week and a half: they were extremely supportive.
In 2003 you moved from the Sudan to the US, how did you end up in Iowa? The people in Iowa were very good to me and my family. We had to find a sponsor to help us with housing and school, and we found a great one in the Midwest.
You did not play basketball early in your childhood, how did you first get into the sport? In January 2004 I saw some kids playing a sport that I did not know about. It looked fun so I tried it out but I was not very good at 1st. I played more as the weather heated up and eventually got a membership to the YMCA in Des Moines. I would go there after school and all day long in the summer and just learned to shoot jump shots by imitating others.
You decided to attend college at Penn, what made you choose the Quakers? I was privileged to play on the All-Iowa team with guys like Harrison Barnes, and I was told that I could go to Penn and get a good education. I got some coaching about what it takes to play at a high level, and I realized that an Ivy League school was a great opportunity because life is bigger than basketball. I love the game and every year here has affirmed my decision: they produce so many world leaders and have great people here.
In 2010 you created a foundation named for your father, what has the foundation been able to accomplish so far? We have sponsored a pair of kids to go to school in Kenya. We also have provided soccer balls and school supplies, and been able to raise thousands of dollars for future workshops and camps.
You were named team captain this season as a senior despite coming off the bench: what is the secret to being a great leader? I spend a lot of time reading about leadership and watching leaders make speeches. I am taking a Naval science class with students who will become commissioned officers in a few months. The key is that you have to invest in people.
In November you got to play against your younger brother Peter (who is a freshman at Iowa), what was it like to play against him, and who was your family cheering for?! It was an incredible experience for my grandmother to see us play for the first time in her life, and it was a special moment for our family to signify how far we have come.
Earlier this month you were one of five D-1 players named to the Allstate NABC Good Works Team. What did it mean to you to receive such an honor, and what do you hope to do in the future? It means a lot to me, but I have to say that it is a recognition of what other people have been able to do for me and my family and the resources that have been provided to us. I thank everyone who voted for me. After graduation I will go back to the Sudan this summer. I hope to hold a youth summit at Iowa State after coming back to the US, and this fall hopefully begin studying for a master’s degree in London.