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Hey, Ben, U.K. wants you

April 13, 2007
When London hosts the Summer Olympics in 2012, Great Britain will qualify a men's basketball team for the first time since the city hosted the 1948 Games. A bid to the host team from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) is automatic.

The centerpiece of the British side is expected to be Luol Deng, who finally was granted citizenship last October after an extended delay. The process was impeded in the pathways of the country's Home Office because Deng -- technically still a political refugee from Sudan -- had spent most of the previous seven years studying and playing basketball in the United States.

Now that Deng is the U.K.'s most prominent basketball ambassador, he quietly has pursued a recruiting goal: Convince Bulls teammate Ben Gordon to cast his lot -- and his explosive jump shot -- with the Union Jack.

''Ben is eligible [to play for Great Britain], but I think he would like to keep his options open because he would really like to play for the U.S.,'' Deng said. ''I certainly have spoken to him about it.''

Gordon is eligible because his mother, Yvonne -- originally from Jamaica -- lived in London when he was born in 1983. Mother and child later emigrated to Mount Vernon, N.Y., where Gordon grew up. He became a U.S. citizen while in high school.

Of Deng's overture, Gordon said: ''I've only thought about it when Luol brings it up. I know he thinks I should be playing. [British basketball officials] have never given me a deadline. It is a great opportunity that I'll probably look at some more. But right now, I wouldn't say 'yes' that I'd play, or 'no' that I won't. I'll just wait and see how things go.''

Jim O'Donnell