Evans Looks Forward to Life After Diogu

Tomorrow the NBA will hold its annual draft, and Arizona State's Ike Diogu, after much deliberation, will be part of it. No one is denying that losing the outgoing Pac-10 player of the year will be tough to overcome, but the Sun Devils' head coach is looking forward to the challenge.

"We talked to Ike through out the whole process and gave him as much guidance as we could," said ASU's head coach Rob Evans. "Now we're gonna focus on the kids we have now, and the kids we have coming in. We're ready to start the season."

The loss of Diogu will necessitate obvious and immediate changes. The Sun Devil skipper is hopeful that the new additions to the team can make their mark early in their ASU career. "We're gonna have a little different style of play," Evans commented. "You don't have the low post threat down there anymore. We have the kid coming in from Southern Idaho (Bruno Claudino) who's a good post player, and can also step outside and do some things. We have some young forwards coming in (Sylvester Seay and Jeff Pendergraph) who are 6-9, 6-10…they're inexperienced but talented. Seay is really talented, and hopefully has a chance to do what Ike is doing in a few years."

"Pendergraph is a good defensive player and rebounder." Evans continued. "Antwi Atuahene is ranked the #1 point guard coming out of junior college. We're very fortunate to get him, and he has three years left." Atuahene will also be the starting point guard on the Canadian national team this summer, as they try and qualify for the World Championship tournament.

Returning players such as Kevin Kruger, Serge Angounou and Bryson Krueger are going to be counted as the leaders of the team, and Evans is confident that they're up for the task. "It's going be the same for them like it was for Ike, like it was for Curtis Millage, like it was for Chad Prewitt," Evans remarked. "They stepped up at the right time and gave us good effort. I feel really good about those guys. Kevin is doing a good job of leading along with Serge. I feel like offensively those guys will give us a lift. The biggest thing is that we have to be able to defend people and rebound the basketball. I think we can do that with the guys we have."

Much has been written and spoken over the difficult decision process Ike Diogu went through, and Evans shared his point of view on the matter. "It was gut-wrenching for him, but it was fun for me to watch him go through it, and mature a little bit on a daily basis," Evans stated. "He would call me if he was on the road, telling me how workouts went. I was telling him what I was hearing…Ike was very intelligent not getting an agent until he got a good grasp of where he was (going to get picked), because he was all over the board. As his workouts have gotten better he has continued to move up according to the people I've been talking to." Evans added that he never made any kind of recommendations to Ike concerning his decision, but he rather tried to ensure that Ike will have all the proper information.

Evans remarked that even on decision day, Diogu wasn't sure whether staying in the draft was the right decision. "The last day (before the deadline to declare for the draft) everyone was trying to get a hold of him including his parents," Evans recalled. "Nobody could find him. He was supposed to work out for Charlotte the day of the decision, but he told me ‘I don't think I'll be making that flight.' He came by at 12:30 (on the deadline day), signed in like he always does and he came and sat down with me. He was very tentative, and I asked him ‘what's inside that big head of yours?' He said that he thought he was gonna stay in the draft."

"I told him as long as he felt comfortable and certain with where he is, I feel comfortable with that," Evans continued. "He went back to his apartment to think about it more. He came back at 1:30 (30 minutes before the deadline) and said ‘I don't feel like anything has changed.' And I said ‘Fine. Let's make sure that we get in touch with the right people and move forward.' He was very concerned and said that he didn't know if he made the right decision. I think now he feels much more comfortable with his decision. I'm excited for him."

Evans hopes his now former player would go to Golden State – a team that has worked Diogu out twice. Warriors' coach Mike Montgomery is naturally very familiar with Diogu from his days as Stanford's head coach and has been in close contact with Evans over the last few weeks. ASU's head coach added that Diogu will be at his home at Dallas during the draft.

Another hot topic surrounding Sun Devils basketball is the apparent impasse between Evans and ASU over his contract extension. The ASU coach said that he did believe that nothing is a "closed book…there's time to resolve it. I feel like we're making progress at this juncture. When you take a look at things, I'm not any different a basketball coach if I had won two more games or if we made two more jump shots, than I am now. I feel like we have a lot of different entities, a lot of different people coming in and they're trying to figure out things. Things always work out for the best, and we'll continue to fight this fight and get this team to where it needs to get to."

Overall, Evans is optimistic for the future of the program, and feels that especially on the offensive end there shouldn't be a noticeable drop-off. "We have out three of our leading scores back in Kevin, Serge, and Bryson Krueger," he said. "Bryson and Kevin are really good perimeter shooters and will be probably be better this year, for the simple reason that we're gonna be more of a team. Anytime you have a guy like Ike – you're gonna go to him. The guard play will be very important this year. We'll be able to score, we just have to defend and rebound the ball. I'm excited to see where this ball club can get to. It's always challenging here, but I really look forward the challenge."

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