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Jok brothers’ unique journey makes stop in Iowa City on Friday

[ 0 ] November 20, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Dau Jok, then a high school senior, scored 14 points and his brother, freshman Peter Jok, added 10. But that was not enough to keep Des Moines Roosevelt’s 2009-10 basketball season alive.

The Roughriders lost at Hoover in a substate semifinal, 51-44. Peter’s prep career was just starting to blossom. Dau’s was over. Brothers on the court, no more. Or so it seemed.

Friday, they will share a court again for the first time since that night at Hoover when Iowa hosts Penn at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Teammates then, rivals now.

Dec 08, 2012: Pennsylvania Quakers guard Dau Jok (20) shoots a jump shot during the second half against the Villanova Wildcats at the Palestra in Philadelphia, PA. Villanova defeated Penn 68-55. (Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Dec 08, 2012: Pennsylvania Quakers guard Dau Jok (20) shoots a jump shot during the second half against the Villanova Wildcats at the Palestra in Philadelphia, PA. Villanova defeated Penn 68-55. (Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

“I didn’t think it would happen,” said Dau, a senior and captain for the Quakers.

Peter, a freshman at Iowa, found out about the game when his brother called him this summer.

“I thought he was playing around,” Peter said. “I called him back and said, ‘You better bring your ‘A’ game.”

In many ways, Friday’s game will be more than a reunion.

“It’s a testament to the journey we have traveled,” Dau said.

The Jok family journey started with family tragedy in the Sudan, then stopped in Uganda and Kenya before landing in Des Moines in 2003. Dau was 6 and Peter 3 when their father, Dut Jok, a general in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, was killed in that country’s civil war. Their grandfather, a tribal chief, was later killed as well.

Amelia Ring, Dau and Peter’s mother, moved her family to Des Moines because of its large Sudanese refugee population in December of 2003. Dau and Peter have a brother, Jo Jo, and a sister, Alek. Jo Jo, a junior and a defensive lineman at Dowling Catholic, will be playing for a state football championship against Cedar Rapids Xavier on Friday night at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

“He’s kind of mad,” Peter said. “Because everyone is going to be here.”

Amelia Ring won’t be at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. She is a member of the Sudan parliament, currently in session. She is scheduled to return to Des Moines next month. But a cast of family members and friends will be on hand to watch this Jok duel.

Dau: A father figure

This is more than a sibling rivalry. In essence, it’s father against son.

“(Dau) was pretty much my dad, because my dad died,” Peter said. “He was the oldest, so we had to look up to him and listen to him. He was pretty much the dad of the house.”

Mike Nixon and Bruce Koeppel, teammates on Des Moines Lincoln’s state championship basketball team in 1975, share power of attorney for the four Jok children and have been instrumental figures in their lives since they came to Iowa. But it was Dau who provided the paternal presence for his siblings.

 Iowa's Peter Jok looks waits for a play to unfold during the Hawkeyes' game against UNC-Wilmington at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. (David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen)


Iowa’s Peter Jok looks waits for a play to unfold during the Hawkeyes’ game against UNC-Wilmington at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. (David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

“When we first came to America, I had to be a father figure,” Dau said. “Peter and I, we didn’t have much of a brotherly friendship. Everything was sort of tough love with me and him, and this is how things are. It wasn’t until I came to college that we started to build more of a brotherly relationship.”

The brothers talk several times a week, and basketball is rarely the subject. Dau has been instrumental in helping his brother adjust to college life, whether it be advice in rewriting a play for a theatre class or keeping him motivated when things get tough.

“I just try to be the person who puts things in perspective if he’s struggling a little bit,” Dau said. “I encourage him to stay with it. He’s overcome the hardest part.”

Peter, regarded as one of the nation’s top basketball talents as a freshman, had to fight his way back from a significant knee injury the summer before his sophomore year to earn a scholarship offer from Iowa. Much like Dau worked effortlessly once he found out that basketball could earn him the free Ivy League education he got at Penn.

Peter calls his brother, coming off knee surgery this spring, “a real smart dude,” and brags about his leadership skills.

“He’s a really good leader,” Peter said. “When I played with him my freshman year at Roosevelt, he had that leadership in him. I look up to him for that.”

A future president?

Peter predicts that some day, Dau will be president of Sudan. That’s not as bold a statement as it sounds.

Dau’s humanitarian efforts are noble. He’s honored his late father by starting the Dut Jok Youth Foundation. His mission “aims to fight poverty and violence in post-conflict South Sudan by empowering the youth to become transformative leaders through sports and academics.”

Dau went on a goodwill mission to Rwanda in the summer of 2011. He took a similar mission trip to the Sudan and Uganda in the summer of 2012. He went to Nigeria in May to take part in a We Play to Win program that uses sports as a vehicle to teach leadership skills.

He’s trying to raise $25,000 to conduct some sports camps that include leadership workshops in his native Sudan. Lakes State Community USA, named for one of 10 states in South Sudan, appointed Dau as secretary of youth.

Leadership is something that continues to absorb Dau. He read 33 leadership-related books between May and September.

“I read, read, read,” Dau said. “I study, watch people, watch speeches. Leadership is a big thing for me. “

A future president of Sudan?

“That’s a possibility, I don’t know,” Dau said. “There’s nothing out of reach. I’m very interested in the leadership aspect. I don’t know where that may take me. As for now I’m focused on developing youth sports, which is something I know about, and using the power of academics to bring about change.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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