Ike Diogu Just Wants To ‘Prove Myself'

Following a 14-15 season, one would think that the last thing that the ASU Basketball team would generate is a positive buzz. Nevertheless, there has been a good dose of high expectations for the 2002-03 season. One significant reason is the arrival of a highly touted recruiting class. Heading that group is 6-9, 240 center Ike Diogu, who's considered one of the best Basketball recruits to come to ASU in quite a while.

The Garland high school graduate was somewhat of an unknown in his junior year. However, the Sun Devil coaches were able to discover him before he went on to have a phenomenal senior season, a fact that made an impression on Diogu. "The first time I got something from ASU was December of my junior year." Recalls the leading rebounder and shot blocker for Dallas' division 5A. "They came to watch me play a few times that year. From then on, I just got hooked on them…They were some small schools that started recruiting me at the same time as ASU, but ASU was the first Division I school that wrote me."

What ASU knew in winter of 2000, the rest of college Basketball discovered in the summer of 2001. Diogu blew up at both the Adidas ABCD camp and in the Three Stripes Classic and overnight he went from an unknown commodity to a player who made everyone's top 100 national list. Ike cemented his blue chipper status in his senior season finishing the season ranked as the fourth leading scorer in his division with 23.0 points per game (on a team that averaged just 59.5 points a game), to along with 11.5 rebounds and just over 4.5 blocks per game. His mind-boggling 77% from the field and a solid 80% from the free throw line are a strong testimony to his well-rounded game. It was hardly a surprise that ASU had some stiff competition, in the likes of Connecticut and Illinois, when it was trying to get Diogu to sign on the dotted line. "It was pretty tough choosing between three schools." Says the center. "All three visits were real nice. I set a deadline to announce my college choice, but I just couldn't do it at that time. Coach Calhoun (Connecticut) and coach Self (Illinois) were real hard to turn down. I just prayed about it, and that's where I got my answer from." There were unfounded rumors that Ike's dad was trying to prevent his son from coming to Tempe. The ASU freshman to-be passionately denies that notion. "My dad wanted what's best for me, and he felt that I made my decision a little too fast. He just wanted to give me a little more time. If he didn't want me to go to Arizona State, he would close the door on them a long time ago. So him not wanting me to go to Arizona State wasn't the case at all. He just wanted to make sure that I had enough time to make this decision. I respect my dad a lot, and if he didn't want me to go to a certain school, than I wouldn't."

The fact that ASU did beat out national powerhouses for the services of Diogu would imply that the Garland high school product had a memorable visit in the valley of the sun. Diogu concurs. "The campus life was real nice. The team is real close, and all hang out together after practice. Coach Evans and his wife were real nice. I really liked all the coaches too. The weather was great. Jason Braxton was my host. I liked hanging with him…The visit was great because of the combination of all these things." Diogu lists head coach Rob Evans as the biggest reason why he chose ASU. Thus, it was natural for him to have second thoughts when Evans was contemplating leaving the Sun Devils for the vacant New Mexico position. "I thought I would have to open the re-recruiting process, but my high schools coaches never thought he was gonna leave Arizona State, so they told me not to worry. If he left, I don't know if I would still be at Arizona State. I respect him a lot, but if you fall in love with the school then whoever the coach is doesn't matter. It was a big relief when I heard he was gonna stay."

Ever since he signed with ASU in November of last year, this coveted recruit followed the Sun Devils closely during the 2001-02 campaign. When we asked him of his opinion on the team's performance, he replied: "Some games they had the lead, and just didn't finish it. I think they're just a few steps away from really competing in the Pac-10. I just want to help the team get better…It's never easy going into a program your first year, no matter what kind of the season they had. There's a big difference between college and high school, so no matter how good or bad your team is, you have to work real hard your first year." Despite the team's struggles, Diogu enjoyed watching his future teammates in action: "I liked watching Jason Braxton, Curtis Millage, Tommie Smith, and definitely Chad Prewitt. He really surprised a lot of people last year. He really blew up… I'm bummed that I won't get to play with him. He's a real good player. He's the perfect example of how much better you can get, if you work hard for four years. It would be a great compliment to if they compared me to Chad."

As many accolades that this blue chip recruit has received, he narrowly missed the greatest honor that a high school Basketball player could receive – an invitation to the McDonald's All-American team. Diogu plans to turn that negative into a positive. "It does motivate me. I kinda felt that I've should have been in the McDonald's game, but everyone on that team was a good player, and they all deserve it. I need to come in and just open some more eyes." When we asked him about his skills, the center was honest in his assessment: "I need to work on quickness. I'm not slow, but I can get quicker. I need to work more on my defense than my offense. I need to get better at guarding quicker players around the perimeter. I'm very strong in rebounding, blocking shots, and running the floor. I can step outside and shoot too. I feel like I play hard all the time." If Diogu is feeling pressure over the immense expectations put on him, his words sure don't convey that notion: "My mindset is just to come in and work as hard as hard as I can, and help the team win some games. That's all I'm looking forward to. I want to prove myself…I know there's a lot expected of me, but that's why you work hard in high school – to put yourself in that position. Coming into high school, nobody thought I would do the things I did. Now that I made a name for myself, I have to keep it going. I know I have to work hard at it."

The die hard Sun Devil fans will get a very early look Diogu and the rest of his recruiting class, as they enroll in summer school and get a chance to acclimate early to their new surroundings. "I'm coming to Arizona State in June so I can get used to the school and classes before the season starts. It also gives me some time to work in the weight room...Since my freshman year I had plans to go out of state. It will be good for me, and I look forward to it. Playing with Allen Morill who I know from my summer team will make the transition easier. I'm kinda anxious and nervous at the same time. But I won't be nervous for too long. When it all comes down to it's just Basketball, and you just go out there and play. I'm definitely looking forward to playing college Basketball."

Ike Diogu's performance in high school and in prestigious national Basketball camps have demonstrated extreme potential, and have easily ignited the imagination of the maroon and gold faithful. With an ASU team eagerly yearning to turn the corner, and into a Pac-10 powerhouse, it would be easy to unfairly label this true freshman the program's savior. One thing is for certain - Ike Diogu's demeanor and work ethic won't let him rest on his laurels. The hard work that keeps him grounded in face of the rocket high expectations put on him, will eventually help him and the Sun Devils soar to new heights.

Name

Ike Diogu

High School

Garland HS, Garland, TX

Position

Center

Height

6-9

Weight

240

Date of Birth

9/11/83

Hometown

Buffalo, NY

Nickname

Never had a nickname.

Favorite TV Show

Martin

Favorite Movie

Judgment Night

Favorite Singer

Jadakiss

Favorite Food

Spaghetti

Favorite Drink

Fruit Punch

Favorite Athlete

Ben Wallace

Favorite Pro Team

Sacramento Kings

Person you most admire

My mom. She's always pushing me, and always there for me.

First Basketball Memory

Winning the city championship in sixth grade. That was my first year playing, and I didn't contribute much. But my coach was always working with me, and he told me that one day I'd be a good player.

One Thing most people don't know about me

I'm just laid back and real easy to talk to.

Why did you choose ASU?

Definitely Coach Evans. His background and what other coaches said about him impressed me. I think he'll start turning things around at Arizona State.

Where do you want to be in ten years?

I want to have my own business of manufacturing video games. I'm really into that.

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