Baylor big man Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. recorded his 100th block Thursday night when the Bears played Texas-Southern, but that isn’t what Lual-Acuil will remember most about the game.
Lual-Acuil’s parents, Joseph Acuil and Ayen Mayor, arrived from South Sudan on Thursday. It was the first time Lual-Acuil had seen them in more than four years, and the first time they’d ever seen him play.
They had flown from South Sudan to Kenya to Qatar to Dallas, and Jo was excused to miss Thursday’s shootaround to go pick them up. Because of delays at customs and traffic, they arrived at the Ferrell Center only 45 minutes before tipoff.
“I was nervous for the game, just because my mom has never seen me play,” Lual-Acuil said. “No words can really explain how I’m feeling, for when I did see them. It was definitely a special moment and a day I’ll always remember.”
Lual-Acuil’s life has been full of journeys. He was born in what is now South Sudan. With the country torn apart by a civil war in the late 1990s, he and his family left for Uganda when he was 3.
His father returned to work for the South Sudanese government, but he and his mother and siblings lived in a refugee camp in Uganda for five years until leaving for Perth in Western Australia.
The 7-footer first played basketball in the 11th grade, at Kingsway Christian College in Darch, Australia. That led to a basketball scholarship to Neosho County Community College in Chanute, Kansas, and finally to Baylor.
He arrived in Waco, Texas, in 2015 and sat out his first year with a heart issue. He made waves last season with his shot-blocking, and this season is averaging 13.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks for the Bears.
Lual-Acuil is graduating on Saturday, and he’ll do that with his parents in attendance.