Ike Diogu made a name for himself during his time at Arizona State as a blue-collar, low-maintenance player who preferred to focus on the team.
So his response when asked about his most memorable moment at ASU was not at all surprising. He wasn’t earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors or all-conference first-team accolades. And he was not drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the first round (ninth overall) after his junior year.
No, that’s when he and his teammates learned they were heading to the NCAA postseason tournament for the first time since 1995.
“For me, the best time will always be the first year, the Sunday of the selection. To sit down and hear a name called because we did not know if we were going to enter,” he said. “We lost a game to Oregon in the Pac-10 tournament, so we were a little on edge when we watched the selection on Sunday and it was awesome.”
Diogu had a whole career at ASU (2002-2005) before playing seven years in the NBA (2005-2012), then nine abroad. He participated in two Olympic Games (2012, 2016) as a member of the Nigerian team.
The next honor comes Saturday night when Diogu’s No. 5 takes to the rafters at Desert Financial Arena during the festivities in the Sun Devils’ 8 p.m. Pac-12 showdown against Colorado.
It will be the eighth issue with this distinction after those of “Jumpin” Joe Caldwell, Lionel Hollins, Byron Scott, Lafayette “Fat” Lever, Eddie House, Alton Lister and James Harden.
“To be able to be in the same boat with these guys is really amazing, something I couldn’t have imagined happening,” he said.
Most Sun Devil enthusiasts would say this is a long overdue honor, but several factors got in the way. Diogu’s game program being the main one. Then came COVID-19. Although there was a season in 2020-21, it was a season without spectators and ASU administrators did not see fit to have this type of ceremony and not be able to invite fans who encouraged him for three years.
So the time has finally arrived.
“Very excited,” Diogu said during a Zoom call with local media. “I can’t really express how I feel. Lots of excitement, emotion.”
Diogu, now 38, is perhaps the program’s most vocal proponent. He maintains a home in Texas as well as Phoenix, but says the rest of his free time in recent years has been spent here.
When he’s not playing, he’s a fixture at ASU games. He closely follows all sports, but especially basketball and football teams. He is one of many professionals who regularly visit the Weatherup Center for scrums and practice time.
“It helped jumpstart my pro career, gave me the opportunity to be a pro,” he said of his time at ASU. “I will be forever indebted to ASU and they have always taken care of me. Even though Coach (Rob) Evans is gone. The staff of (Herb) Sendek and now the staff of Coach (Bobby) Hurley. I really love coming back to college. I love watching the games, some of the teams they’ve had in the past, especially the team that started 12-0. It was a lot of fun. They went up so high in the rankings It’s all our dream when you come to ASU is to have that kind of impact.”
“College has always been good to me, so I’m the ultimate supporter.”
Diogu was the first Sun Devil to earn consensus All-American (second team) honors in 2004-05. He was the first Associated Press preseason All-American in ASU history and only the 11th in Pac-10 history when he clinched the honor in the fall of 2003. .
He was arguably the most effective player in college basketball during his three years. In 2004-05, he became the first player in Pac-10 history to lead the league in scoring (22.6 ppg.), rebounding (9.8 rpg.) and blocking (2.34 bpg.) , which led to the Pac-10 Player of the Year. the honors of his last season.
He still holds two of the top four marks for his team’s highest point percentage in a season, 30.8% in 2002-04 and 29.8 in 2004-05.
Asked about the legacy he left, Diogu says he hopes he will be remembered in relatively simple terms.
“I like to think I was a relentless player on the pitch. I always gave it my all. I also like to think I was a pretty cool guy to talk to and hang out with,” he said.
Diogu’s basketball journey has taken him to many countries. He puts Tempe at the top of his list of places he’s competed, but he picks Puerto Rico as his favorite stop otherwise.
However, he does not necessarily close the door to his playing career. His last stint ended in Mexico in December. He is still working and looking for his next opportunity. Among the highlights of his international career was a selection as the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket Tournament MVP where he averaged 22 points and 8.7 rebounds.
He still loves the game.
“I haven’t officially retired yet,” he said.
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