On March 6, 2004, there was little to make of Donald Trump’s comments during a Duke-North Carolina game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"If you’re going to pick one player to be an Apprentice on your show, who would it be?” ESPN’s Doris Burke asked.
“Well I think No. 2 has been amazing for Duke. He’s really been amazing,” Trump responded, referring to Duke freshman Luol Deng.
He went on to add, “His touch around the basket has been amazing."
Fast forward 13 years, and Donald Trump is now the president of the United States with an agenda that has included an executive order halting refugee intake and all immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Sudan.
See, Deng—who scored a career-high 25 points during the 70-65 win against the Tar Heels—was a refugee from Sudan once. He was born there in 1985, fled to Egypt in 1990 and moved to London in 1994 before moving to the U.S. in 1999 and gaining British citizenship in 2006.
In other words, it appears Deng would not have been able to play in the United States under Trump’s policy until he gained British citizenship in his mid-20s, long after he matriculated at Duke. Deng is from a part of Sudan that in 2011 became South Sudan, but that was long after he moved to the United States and gained British citizenship.
At the game, Trump sat "under the basket," according to the Associated Press. In the contest, Deng carried the Blue Devils to the Tobacco Road season sweep, going 12-of-16 from the floor and grabbing five rebounds.
Throughout the game, Trump won television attention from announcers Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale, including this exchange:
Dick Vitale: Donald Trump was going to jump out of his seat and say, ‘Hey, I want to get [Deng] on the Apprentice!’ [We’ve] got Mr. Trump in the house tonight. Oh yeah, everybody coming out. Hey! How did he get his ticket? Did he pay for his ticket?
Mike Patrick: Of course not.
DV: Can he afford it? Maybe I should’ve loaned him a few dollars, huh?
MP: You’re the only one in the building that I know could.
DV: Look at Donald Trump, I like his hairdo. I wish I had some hair like him.
MP: You like everybody’s hairdo, Dick.
Deng—currently in his 13th year in the NBA and playing for the Los Angeles Lakers—spoke out about his experience as a refugee in response to Trump’s executive order, which was blocked by various appeals courts and is expected to be replaced in the coming days. Deng also showed his solidarity with refugees by posting on Twitter, “I stand by all refugees and migrants, of all religions, just as I stand by the policies that have historically welcomed them.”
Little did Trump know during his visit that his future senior policy advisor was also on campus at the time. Stephen Miller, who was just a freshman then, has become one of his chief proponents of policies against refugees and immigrants.
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Back then, though, Miller was primarily a fan of tennis and a recent graduate from Santa Monica high school, according to the Duke directory published by the University.
Funny what a difference just 13 years can make.