Before Kur Kuath turned 2 years old, his family was homeless and forced to live in a Catholic church in Egypt.
Civil war had ripped apart his native Sudan. His family found itself in the midst of a year-plus-long journey that would take them thousands of miles to a new life in America.
Today, Kuath is almost 7,800 miles from where he was born. Playing basketball for Oklahoma, just like his life in America, is a blessing.
“The resources that we have (in America) are crazy,” Kuath said. “Clean water, Walmarts everywhere, five miles away. But I learned it is just a true blessing that God has given me to put me in this position that I am today, and I’m truly grateful for where I am today.”
Kuath is a key contributor for OU, which hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday. He will likely get matched up with OSU’s Yor Anei. The two will have one thing in common when they step on the court during Bedlam — Anei’s mother also fled South Sudan as a refugee.
The Sooners’ 6-foot-10 forward was born in Biemnom in what is now South Sudan. At the time, it was all part of Sudan, but a civil war was going on between the north and south. It was the Second Sudanese Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2005 and eventually led to South Sudan becoming an independent country in 2011.
Not long after he was born, Kuath’s family — his mother, father and siblings — moved to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum in the northern part of the country. Most of Kuath’s extended family still lives in Khartoum today.
After Kuath’s family fled to Egypt, his mother, Aliet Deng, got a job as a housekeeper and made enough money for her family to move out of the church and live in a small apartment. The family applied for refugee status in the United States and was granted it over a year after arriving in Egypt.
Kuath and his family relocated to Utah as refugees when he was about 3 years old. Utah was very different from Sudan and Egypt.
“Man, it’s cold,” Kuath said of his first home in America. “There’s a lot of snow.
“It was nice, though, because we got a lot of help, and just people helping my parents figure out the whole American system. They came into America with a family, no education, no job, no understanding of how America works. And they figured it out.”
Deng went to work again to provide for her family. Kuath and his siblings didn’t always have a lot growing up, but they understood why. The children saw how hard their mom worked and were not concerned about having the nicest or the newest things like their friends.
Deng is very proud of her son for getting a scholarship to play basketball in college. She is thankful for the opportunities Kuath and her other children have gotten in America, most of all their education.
“They struggled, and I struggled too,” Deng said. “And I thank America. They brought us here and the kids came and saw the brighter lights. Even though I’m not educated, I have nothing, my kids are now educated. I thank God, and I thank America too for allowing my kids to be a success.”
Today, South Sudan is still engaged in a civil war, one that started in 2013. Kuath is grateful for the chances he’s had in America, opportunities he knows he wouldn’t have gotten in South Sudan.
“I feel like it’s impacted me now because I know what people back home are going through,” Kuath said. “School-wise, education-wise, like back home education is not as available. It’s not as easy to get as it is in America.”
Deng knows Kuath has a good opportunity at Oklahoma and the chance to follow his dreams.
Kuath didn’t start playing basketball until he was in middle school. He wanted to play because he saw his older brother doing it. He didn’t realize how far the sport could take him until his sophomore year of high school when his coach told him he had potential.
As Kuath fell in love with basketball, he also started to dream of playing in the NBA. After playing at Kearns High School in Salt Lake City, Kuath went to Western Wyoming Community College, then Salt Lake Community College before getting a scholarship offer from the Sooners.
After missing most of last season with a back injury, Kuath has been one of OU’s most consistent bench players this season, averaging 3.4 points and 1.4 blocks per game while injecting some energy with exciting dunks.
“I learned to love the game, and it just gave me blessings after blessings,” Kuath said. “It’s been great.”
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