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Mooseheart junior forward Makur Puou was named this to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 1A/2A First Team All-State team. Puou and teammate Mangisto Deng are the first Mooseheart player to earn IBCA postseason honors
Mooseheart junior guard Mangisto Deng was named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 1A/2A Second Team All-State team.
MOOSEHEART, March 8 – For the first time in school history, Mooseheart has a first-team All-State basketball player
That player is 6-10 junior power forward Makur Puou, who was named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Class 1A/2A team. Additionally, Ramblers junior guard Mangisto Deng was named as an IBCA second team all-state selection.
Puou will be honored for his selection during Saturday's Class 1A Finals in Peoria. For the 2012-13 season, he was Mooseheart's main offensive weapon for a team that won postseason honors for the first time since 1964 and claimed an IHSA regional for the first time in school history. The Ramblers' season ended with a 24-6 record following a 70-67 sectional semifinal loss to Chicagoland Jewish.
Puou averaged 19.0 points per game, grabbed 10.8 rebounds per contest and blocked 106 shots in the season. Puou shot 61.5 percent from field and scored 551 points for Mooseheart, which finished the season 24-6.
"He had a great year," Ahrens said.
Due to IHSA transfer rules, neither Puou nor Deng competed in their first year at Mooseheart. Ahrens said Puou made huge strides in that time to become a better basketball player.
"He was very limited offensively 12 months ago, and he worked extremely hard to become the player he's become," Ahrens said.
In Mooseheart's six losses, Ahrens said a common theme was that the team's guards were prevented in getting the ball to their star power forward, who was routinely double-teamed when he got near the basket.
"Our losses were because other teams limited (Puou) getting the ball late in the second half," Ahrens said. "They took our guards out of the game where we couldn't get the ball to him. We're going to work on that so that doesn't happen next year—because I don't think he can be guarded one-on-one."
Despite that defensive attention, Puou shone in key games. In the season-ending loss to Chicagoland Jewish, he scored a game-high 30 points, half of those coming in the second quarter.
"He can take over a game in stretches," Ahrens said. "He's an extremely talented player."
All this success comes from a player who played volleyball in South Sudan—but who never played organized basketball before coming to Mooseheart.
"His learning curve has been incredible," Ahrens said of Puou. "He's a volleyball player who's turned into a basketball player in less than two years."
Ahrens said it was Deng who had the most basketball knowledge of the four South Sudanese students who came to Mooseheart in 2010 – center Akim Nyang is the third, and cross-country runner Wal Khat is the fourth. Standing 6-foot-7, Deng had played under the basket in his native country.
"I put him in an uncomfortable position this year," Ahrens said. "He was a post player and I put him out handling the ball 80 percent of the time. But that's the kind of basketball player he is, that I was able to ask him to adjust and he did that for us."
Deng averaged 13.9 points per game and shot 38 percent (48-124) from beyond the three-point arc. He added 106 assists, 97 rebounds and 43 steals.
"He's going to be a special player for us because he's going to get better," Ahrens said. "For him to get second team All-State is a great thing for him."
Since its founding, Mooseheart has operated a complete, accredited kindergarten-through-high-school academic program, plus art, music, vocational training and interscholastic sports. It is an extremely nurturing and student-tailored program, with an average student-teacher ratio of 12-1.
Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0=A) are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.
Mooseheart is currently home to roughly 220 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment. Mooseheart boasts its own U.S. Post Office and a fully functioning branch of Fifth Third Bank.
In addition to Mooseheart, Moose International also supports Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, FL founded in 1922; and conducts more than $70 million worth of community service programs annually.