Feb. 5, 2005: Oakland Tribune Article On Ike Diogu

Feb. 5, 2005

by Jeff Faraudo, Oakland TribunePublished in Oakland Tribune, Feb. 5, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Oregon State coach Jay John was asked this week to identify the leading candidates for Pac-10 Player of the Year, he named Arizona's Salim Stoudamire, Stanford's Chris Hernandez and a couple of players from Washington.

'That's just off the top of my head,' he said.

Asked a few moments later whether it was intentional he skipped over Arizona State junior Ike Diogu, John reacted with apologetic horror.

'I forgot about Ike,' he said. 'Ike's always got to be there. He's just so dog-gone solid, sometimes you think what he does is routine. But what he's doing is magnificent with respect to producing double figures, rebounding like crazy and putting his team on his back.'

Diogu, who leads Sun Devils (16-6, 5-5) against Cal (11-9, 4-6) in Pac-10 play today, entered the week atop the Pac-10 in seemingly every statistical category.

Now, after scoring a career-high 39 points Thursday in a 74-67 win over Stanford, hereare the 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward's impressive per-game numbers: 22.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.64 blocked shots, and .586 field-goal accuracy.

No player in the other 29 Division I leagues entered this week leading his conference in those four categories. Only Utah's Andrew Bogut and Texas-Arlington's Steven Thomas topped their league in three of the four.

Since 1978-79, when blocked shots became an official NCAA statistic, no Pac-10 player has led the league in scoring, rebounding and blocks.

Diogu says he doesn't give his statistics much thought but acknowledged he'd take pride winning the Pac-10 triple crown. 'That would definitely be impressive,' he said, 'especially since nobody's done it.'

Still, for all his credentials, Diogu may be taken for granted a bit.

Some reward for a player who has scored double digits in all 81 games of his college career. Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played his college career at UCLA as Lew Alcindor, only made it to 69 straight games before sitting down one night with fewer than 10 points.

'I think sometimes you do get taken for granted when you play as well for as long as he has,' ASU coach Rob Evans said. 'When he doesn't have an outstanding game, it kind of gets blown out of proportion. The other night (against Washington State), he had 15 (points) and 13 (rebounds), and you'd have thought he didn't play at all.'

In the Phoenix area, anyway, there was a sense that perhaps Diogu had slipped a bit. Over a stretch of six games entering this week, he topped 15 points just once -- needing two free throws with 21 seconds left vs. Oregon to preserve his double-digit streak.

Then he unleashed his entire repertoire against Stanford in an uncharacteristically emotional performance. 'I wasn't going to let us lose,' he said afterward.

He's been tough on Cal, averaging 25.0 points in five games.

'He's a complete offensive player,' Cal center Rod Benson said. 'He's 260 pounds, but he moves around almost as quickly as I do. He has great moves around the basket and a great jumper out to 15 or 16 feet.'

Stanford gambled and played Diogu straight up, man-to-man. Cal coach Ben Braun isn't sure there's a good way to approach him.

'He's a load -- man or zone,' Braun said. 'He's a very good rebounder, so even when the ball's not getting to him, he's able to go get points. He's not afraid to take the punishment. He gets his shot blocked, but he also draws fouls.'

Only 10 players nationwide have attempted as many free throws as the 167 Diogu has made.

Statistically, Diogu is most proud of his blocked shots total. 'Some people thought I wasn't a very athletic guy, that I really couldn't jump,' he said.

Among those most closely trying to judge Diogu are NBA scouts, who have indicated to ASU that Diogu likely would be taken in the second half of the first round of the draft, if he comes out this spring.

'I think my game's a lot better,' Diogu said. 'But I have no idea where I'll be a year from now.'

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