Change Does Diogu Good

The Indiana Pacers have liked Ike Digou for a long time and were planning to draft him in 2005. The ex-ASU star was snagged by the Golden State Warriors at number nine, but thanks to a trade he ultimately landed in Indianapolis two months ago. DevilsDigest sat down with Diogu the night of the Pacers' game against the Phoenix Suns to get his thoughts on his new home, as well as the Sun Devils team.

Ike Diogu, who declared himself eligible to the NBA draft the same season he won the Pac-10 Player of the Year award, has played in 17 games for the Pacers thus far. He's averaging a modest 9.1 minutes a game, as well as 4.8 points and 2.4 rebounds a contest. Yet, he couldn't be happier with his new team. "Things are going really well," he said. "The team as been real accepting and they have big plans for me, so I'm enjoying it."

During his illustrious career for the maroon and gold, the forward generally played in an offense that saw him get the ball early and often near or in the paint. After getting drafted by the Warriors, Diogu had to get used to a faster paced game that didn't always suit his natural skills. While the game on Friday night against the Suns showcased his improved mobility and quickness (albeit during a scoreless night), the proverbial grind style of the Eastern Conference is definitely to his liking.

"It's more of a slow, half-court tempo," he explained. "Getting the ball down inside and me being an inside player - it's a good fit for me. They want me to be a complimentary player to Jermaine O'Neal down low on the box. He's a great post-up player that commands a lot of attention and I think they want me to be a guy that frees up things for him. They tried playing us together a few times and that has been real successful. I learned a lot from him and he's been showing me the ins and outs of basketball."

O'Neal, a 10-year pro and an All-Star, has enjoyed taking Diogu under his wing and talks about him in glowing terms. "He's a great kid with a lot of ability," he said. "Kind of quiet, but we definitely got him to talk a little. Pretty humble for a lottery pick. He gives us a presence off the bench to score, to rebound, block shots…he commands a double team and the sky is the limit for him. For a guy that isn't that tall, he can get his shot off on anybody. That's the type of talent that he has. "

"He's a sponge. I can tell something, he accepts it and goes out and does it right away," O'Neal continued. "That's what you have to do in this league to be good. I remember when I was in his place and having guys like Rasheed Wallace and Brian Grant telling how to play the game. I knew it was nothing negative, it was just positive criticism and Ike has done a great job with that. We have to find more time for him on the court."

Diogu, who grew up in Garland, Texas never played for a team east of the Lone Star state. Life in Midwest, especially this time of year, has certainly required an adjustment. "It's been pretty different," he commented, "and I haven't gotten used to the cold weather yet – so I just stay inside most of the time (smile). It's really not bad at all."

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that Diogu had filled 16 ticket requests for the Suns game. His love affair with the Valley of the Sun has been a two-way street. "It's cool to play against the Suns," he noted. "I enjoyed my time here in the valley and still come out here a lot in the off-season. It's always good to come back because the people and the fans have been amazing to me at ASU, and it's always fun to come back and play in front of them."

Diogu talks regularly to current Sun Devils Allen Morill and Serge Angounou. While he's sad to see them have a losing senior season, he also realizes that better days are ahead for ASU. "They're heading in the right direction," he said. "When you're relying on freshmen it's tough and you have to go through some growing pains. It's tough for guys that I came into ASU with like Allen and Serge to go out this way, but that's life I guess."

Much like ASU basketball, the future should be brighter for Ike Diogu as well…

Sun Devil Source Top Stories