Diogu-led Nigeria earns Olympic berth

Make it three Sun Devil men’s basketball players on the way to London for the 2012 Olympics.

Ike Diogu, a second-team All-American, Pac-10 Player of the Year and first-round NBA draft pick in 2005, will lead Nigeria into the London Games.

Diogu had 25 points and 10 rebounds and hit a pair of clutch three-points in the fourth quarter to lead Nigeria to an 88-73 victory over the Dominican Republic in the third-place game of the Olympics qualifying tournament in Caracas, Venezuela. The game was tied at 64 when Diogu drained a pair of 3-pointers to spark a 24-11 closing run to lead the Nigerians past the John Calipari-coached Dominican Republic.

“If you consider yourself to be a bigtime player, you’ve got to relish those moments,” Diogu said. “I said I’m going to be the one to put our team on my back, and that’s what I did. Thank goodness the balls went in.”

With the victory, Nigeria joined Russia and Lithuania in earning berths for the Olympics. Nigeria came into the tournament ranked 21st in the world but bounced back from an opening-tame loss to host Venezuela to upset both Lithuania and Greece, ranked in the top five, to reach the semifinals.

In London, Nigeria will compete in Group A against the United States, Tunisia, France, Argentina and Lithuania. Group B will include Russia, China, Britain, Brazil, Australia and Spain.

Diogu’s parents emigrated to the United State from Nigeria three years before his birth. He has played for eight teams in his NBA career and spent the past season playing professionally in China.

Russia and Lithuania also qualified with semifinals victories Saturday. In London, Lithuania and Nigeria will join the United States, Tunisia, France and Argentina in Group A. Russia, China, Britain, Brazil, Australia and Spain are in Group B.

Former Sun Devils center Eric Boateng was named to the roster of host Britain last week, and James Harden was named to the U.S. roster last weekend, giving ASU three basketball representatives in the Games.