NCAA BK

RICHARDS: Diogu puts ASU back on map

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Darryl Richards

 
   
 

OKLAHOMA CITY

is no fool. He took a good look at Kansas. A good, long look at Kansas. Roy Williams showed him championship rings. Diogu thought about playing at Allen Fieldhouse, where legends from Wilt Chamberlain to made the floor squeak. Diogu also looked at the roster and figured he would not get a lot of playing time as a freshman behind All-American , so he decided to go to . Now, Kansas will get a good look at Diogu. And Williams knows exactly what he is missing. The second-seeded Jayhawks will see the player who gave an inside presence and a potential national identity Saturday in the second round of the West Region. This season, Diogu was named Pac-10 freshman of the year after averaging 19.1 points and 7.9 rebounds a game. "We thought he would be a big-time, big-time college player and even saying all of that you never expect a freshman to come in and do what he did," Williams said. "You talk about him being one of the top 10 freshmen in the United States. I don't think he was on the McDonald's All-America team, but what he did his freshman year I would have a tough time picking out nine or 10 guys who had a better year than he did. Our team would be a lot better. I would be a better coach." Diogu was a Williams kind of kid. He is G-rated personality in a world where "R" sells. Diogu says "Yes, sir" and "No, sir." He doesn't sport tattoos or flash the bling-bling and has his size 19 EEE feet firmly planted. Can you imagine a heated exchange between Williams and Diogu?
    "Goshdarnit Ike, stop moving your ding-dang feet." "Dang it coach, can't you see I'm doing the flipping best I can?" "Shoot Ike, you got to do better." "Well, heck coach, I will."
Fortunately for coach Rob Evans, he saw Diogu first. Evans has a long history of recruiting players in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as an assistant at , and . While the Dallas-Fort Worth area has produced No.1 overall picks such as and , it is often overshadowed by its reputation for producing quality high school football players. Diogu had football in his blood. His brother, Eddie, was a receiver at Texas and his other brother, Eric, was the starting tight end on Tennessee's national championship team. It seemed like Ike would follow suit. He played tight end at Garland High School but he decided to concentrate on basketball after his sophomore year. "I just decided to take a look at the future and do what was best for me," Diogu said. "I wanted to look at the long term and decided basketball was a better fit." When Evans watched Diogu play at the ABCD camp he realized he had an opportunity to significantly upgrade his program. Evans got to know Diogu's parents, who are both teachers, and he clicked with the family. "Coach Evans was always straight up with me," Diogu said. "He never offered me the moon or anything. He was just straight up and my parents trusted him. I trusted him." Diogu was somewhat overshadowed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by some of the bigger high school basketball stars. He played on the same Texas Blue Chips AAU team as and who, along with , would receive invitations to the McDonald's All-America team. Bosh went on to and was the ACC freshman of the year. Horton went to Michigan and was the Big Ten freshman of the year. Wright had an outstanding season at Indiana. But few had the impact Diogu had as a freshman. reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995, and Diogu has a chance to impact the Sun Devils like Sean Elliott impacted that Pac-10 school down the road in the '80s. Where football needs several great players to constitute a great class, it only takes one or two great players to become a power in basketball. Evans thinks Diogu is the one. "Absolutely," Evans said. "We knew when we signed him it was going to be huge. He was one of the top 40 kids in the country. We knew what kind of impact he was going to make, and we knew what kind of kid he was and that other players would want to come with kids like that." Funny that Evans would say "impact." forward recognized the impact Diogu would have after watching him play a few pickup games this summer. Diogu played the post with the tenacity of a tight end and liberally used his body to get position. "He did some pretty crazy stuff," Smith said. "In street ball you can charge more so he was just running over people doing some Shaq-type of stuff. You could see this guy was going to be huge so from that point on everybody wanted to pick him up and the goal became get the ball to Ike." Consider it a goal realized. Darryl Richards can be reached at his e-mail address: drichards@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Celtics, Nets, Paul Pierce, Arizona State, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico State, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma State

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