Diogu Relishes ASU Career, Looks Forward to NBA

His accolades are well known to college basketball fans and NBA draft gurus. His love for the Sun Devils, despite forgoing his senior year at Arizona State, is something that has garnered much less publicity. But make no mistake – Ike Diogu bleeds maroon and gold, and that is anything but a worn out cliché. In this exclusive Devils Digest interview, the 2004-05 Pac-10 Player of the Year talked about his years in Tempe, as well as his prospects with the Golden State Warriors.

The 6-8 250 Ike Diogu, is arguably the best basketball player ever to play for Arizona State, and one of the best overall athletes to don the maroon and gold. The second team All-American scored in double digits in all of his 91 games, and was the first Pac-10 player in over 20 years to lead the conference in scoring in consecutive years. He was also the first ever in the conference to pace all players in points (22.6 ppg), rebounding (9.8 rpg) and blocked shots (2.3 bpg) the same year.

Nevertheless, his lofty resume didn't guarantee him a lottery pick status among many of the experts who were handicapping the NBA draft. Diogu, who ended up being selected with the ninth overall pick, talked about his emotions on draft day. "It wasn't stressful," he recalled. "I was back in Garland (Tex.). I played a few pickup games with my friends before the draft and just came back home and watched it. When I got picked it was nuts (laughs). Everybody was yelling…it was rocking! It was really unbelievable – a dream come true. My coaches , the players…everyone affiliated with the Sun Devil program called me and congratulated me."

Even though the Warriors didn't go out of their way to hide their admiration for Diogu, the former ASU star was still astounded by what transpired on draft day. "It was still a surprise for me," he commented, "but there was obviously speculation that they were gonna pick me because I worked out twice for them. The only other team I worked twice for was the Suns, but I realized later on that they weren't gonna pick me."

"I got responses from my workouts, and I could tell that my stock was rising," Diogu continued. "The NBA coaches don't tell you too much during the workouts, but indirectly I heard from other sources like Coach Evans that I was doing well. We crossed our fingers and just hoped for the best."

The Golden State Warriors are an up and coming team in the ever though Western Conference, and are a relatively young team. The former ASU star does believe that this is a good fit for him. "I think they're gonna work me in slow," Diogu said of his new team." Coach Montgomery was at Stanford, so he knows me and what I can do. I'm just gonna come with the same attitude that I had when I came to ASU. I'm gonna work hard on the floor and see what happens."

Training camp starts on October 3rd, and Diogu plans to arrive shortly in the Bay Area to get himself more acquainted with an locale he's already familiar with. "I've been on the west coast for three last three years, and I've been to California a lot. It's gonna be good to be out here." In a recent Devils Digest interview, another former ASU star and fellow Bay Area resident, Oakland Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter, quipped that his accommodations are not as nice as Diogu who commands a higher salary and a house "up on the hills." Diogu was quick to clear up the air when he heard of Walter's statement. "Nah, I'm not living up in the hills (laughs). But I bought a house and I'm situated there." Diogu said that he hasn't talked to Walter since the NFL draft, but looks forward to seeing him around town.

A few weeks after the NBA draft, Diogu joined his team's other draft picks, and several other young players in the 2005 Rebook Las Vegas League, which allows rookies and young players who aspire to make an NBA roster to showcase their talents. After feeling his way through, Diogu got accustomed to the NBA pace. He ended the league with a roar, as he scored a summer league high 37 points to along with 12 rebounds. "It (his play in the league) started out kinda slow, because it took me a little while to get used to playing against an NBA defense," Diogu stated. "But then I just went out there and played my game. It's a lot more physical, so you have to pick and choose your spots – you need to know when to go full speed and when not. Once I got that down everything took off from there."

Another adjustment, albeit a good one, was getting used to seeing single team coverage, rather than the common sight of a group of players guarding him. "It was a nice surprise, but I think it got me into trouble early on," Diogu admitted. "I was making quick moves because I'm used to having more than one player guarding me, and I should have been reading the defense."

The forward admitted that forgoing his last year of eligibility was extremely hard because of his affinity for the campus and its environment. "I had lots of fun, and I met a lot of cool people off the basketball court," Diogu remarked. "Everybody was good to me there, and being at ASU was a fun time…I won't say I like living in the Towers (his dorm for all three years), but I like a lot of people that live there (smile)."

Diogu created so many pleasant memories to the maroon and gold faithful, it's only fair that we ask what moments in his ASU career will he put above the rest. "I really have two," he said. "My freshman year, coming from high school and having the year I had, going to the NCAA tournament…it was a lot of fun. The other one was playing in my last game at home. We played against Arizona, and we didn't start off well. But we dedicated that game to the seniors, and even though we lost we showed a lot of team effort. I'll never forget that game."

Another lasting memory for Diogu are the Sun Devil fans. "They were great, especially our student section," he stated. "I would love to see more fans at our games, but the student section was always there – even when we finished last in the Pac-10. That was one of the best student sections I have seen around the country – they were unbelievable."

The prevailing notion surrounding Sun Devil basketball is that life after Ike Diogu will be a rough transition to say the least. What does Diogu see in ASU's basketball future? "I think they'll be a lot better than people think they will be," he replied. "People forget that I wasn't the only player on the team. It's gonna tough to replace a player like Jason (Braxton). I think this year people will realize how much they miss him. He was always criticized but he brought a lot to the team."

"At the same time they will sneak up on people, especially because they'll be predicted to finish last," Diogu continued. "I personally think they'll make the tournament. I played a lot with Kevin (Kruger) and Allen (Morill) this summer, and those guys are gonna have big years. We also have some good newcomers…I think a lot of teams will be sleeping on them, and they'll be the surprise team of the Pac-10."

Ike Diogu may have never been a surprise, because expectations from him were sky-high even before he arrived in Tempe. His work ethic, humility, and enormous talent were expected to be on display every time he stepped on the court, and he never failed to deliver. Thus, there's no reason to think that if Ike does sticks to his attitude and natural personality traits on and off the court, that we won't see more praise, this time of the NBA variety, being bestowed on him.

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