French/West/Vaughan represents NBA's Luol Deng

Raleigh communications firm French/West/Vaughan has signed Miami Heat forward Luol Deng, who played his college basketball at Duke, to its sports and entertainment practice.

French/West will work with Deng on marketing and endorsements.

Deng is a two-time NBA All-Star who has averaged 16 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists during his career. He was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after he played his freshman season at Duke.

Rick French, founder and CEO of the 87-person agency, said adding Deng to the agency’s client roster fits in with a goal of “expanding our NBA practice to complement our NFL practice.”

“Having somebody like Luol who has been an All-Star and is seen as a high-character guy is something that was extremely attractive to us,” French said.

Deng, a native of South Sudan and a citizen of the United Kingdom, recently opened the DENG Academy, which promotes basketball and education in the U.K. Last year he received the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, which recognizes “outstanding service and dedication to the community.”

Other athletes represented by French/West: Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins; New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings, New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick; Chicago Bears safety Ryan Mundy; Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Chris Canty; Detroit Lions safety James Ihedigbo; and retired NFL players Simeon Rice, Torry Holt and Terrence Holt.

The agency also represents sports organizations such as the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

The agency founded its sports and entertainment practice in 2010 and last year it accounted for nearly 30 percent of total revenue. French/West charges a retainer fee and receives commissions pegged to deals.

“Generally, our athletes put us on retainer to help build their personal brand,” French said. “In many cases, the reason that they are doing it is to help them in turn monetize that brand off the field or off the ice or whatever the case may be.”

In 2014, according to French, the agency generated nearly $19 million in revenue, about the same as a year ago.

“It’s probably the first year in a long time we haven’t had mid-single digit into really impressive double-digit (growth),” French said. “But it gets harder and harder to do that the larger you get.”