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Jok brothers' unique journey set to make a stop in Iowa City

BY RYAN PROBASCO | NOVEMBER 22, 2013 5:00 AM

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After hearing their story, it’s easy to see why both Dau and Peter Jok are so composed on a basketball court.

The reason? Perspective.

After spending their early childhood years living in the South Sudan, tragedy struck the brothers and their family.

Dut Jok, the boys’ father, was a general in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army during times of chaos and a fight for independence in South Sudan. In 1998, he was gunned down by Arab troops, killed when the boys were just 6 and 3 years old.  

Since then, the family has made stops in Uganda and Kenya before eventually winding up in Des Moines in 2003.

Tonight, the Joks’ unlikely journey to the United States will find its way to Carver-Hawkeye, when Dau Jok’s Pennsylvania squad will square off against Peter Jok and the Hawkeyes.

“It’s a proud moment and a testament to how far we’ve come,” Dau Jok said. “It will be a proud moment.”

“I never thought I’d play him,” Peter Jok said. “It’s just a great opportunity to play him. It’s really exciting. I’m just going to try to treat it as another game. It won’t matter if he’s guarding me; I’m just going to play my game.”

When they first came to the United States, the brothers weren’t accustomed to the game of basketball.

“We didn’t grow up with it,” Dau Jok said. “He started playing when he was in fifth grade. I started when I was going into seventh grade. We started playing basketball just to prove other people wrong. We came here, didn’t know how to play basketball or what it was. The kids would make fun of us.”

But soon, the two realized the sport was a skill they could hone.

“For my brother, it started out as just a thing to do … But we have this OCD or something,” Dau Jok said and laughed. “We have to be good at whatever we do.”

The Joks won’t be the only ones reminiscing tonight. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery graduated from Penn in 1982 after playing three seasons for the Quakers.

McCaffery’s experience playing against teams and players he has had ties to could turn out to be useful for Peter Jok, because the freshman will step on the same court in a meaningful game with his older brother for the first time since the two were in high school.

“I haven’t talked to him [Peter] yet, but I will,” McCaffery said. “What I’ve tried to do is gauge how he’s approached [it]. He’s had really good practices, and he just keeps getting better.”

For Iowa, today’s game will be the team’s last chance to prepare before it embarks on a trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament next week.

But it seems clear the team isn’t excited to make the trip to the Bahamas just yet, as the game against an underrated Penn team won’t be something the team overlooks.

“Just watching them [Penn] play, they don’t go away,” Iowa senior guard Devyn Marble said. “When teams get a lead on them, they keep fighting and clawing back. So we know this team isn’t going to go away even if we do have a big run.

“But for me, it’s not hard. Penn is our next opponent. I don’t want to have any mishaps this early in the season, so each game is just as important as the next. I’m not looking forward to any of those games and I don’t think the team is either.”


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