Ike Diogu’s last day as an Arizona State basketball player was typical of his career. All eyes were on him. Everyone wanted to hear from him.
But instead of calling a press conference and drawing attention to himself and his decision to leave the Sun Devils for the NBA, the softspoken Diogu offered only a one-paragraph goodbye.
Waiting until the last minute of Tuesday’s deadline to make his decision public, the Pac-10's leading scorer, rebounder, shot blocker and its Player of the Year couldn’t justify staying with the Sun Devils for a fourth and final season. He remains eligible for the June 28 draft, where he figures to be a first-round draft pick.
"After going through the process, my family and I have decided it is in my best interests professionally to stay in the NBA draft," Diogu said in a statement through the Sun Devils athletic department. "Arizona State has been very supportive of me and has been a great place for me both as a student and as a basketball player."
Diogu later told Fox Sports Net Arizona that it was difficult to leave ASU and say goodbye his teammates.
"That’s (the) toughest part,’’ he said."I’m still going to keep in close contact with them. I am not going to forget those guys because they helped me become the player-slash-person I am.
"From here on out until I get my degree, I will be coming back here for summer school. Once I get that, I will be good to go."
Diogu’s family was pushing for the NBA. His father, Dr. Edward Diogu, told the Tribune earlier this month that his son wasn’t coming back to Tempe and his next game would be in the NBA. Diogu was quick to correct his dad at a news conference the next day, saying his decision remained up in the air — a decision he reportedly agonized over this weekend.
But in the end, after a series of 11th-hour meetings with ASU coach Rob Evans, Diogu made the jump many suspected was coming all along.
"My parents were very important, they are people I look up to, so it was definitely important," Diogu told FSNA.
The first consensus All-American in ASU history (second-team), Diogu scored 1,946 points in his 91-game career (21.4 points per game) and reached double figures in every game. He finishes as ASU’s third all-time leading scorer and 19th on the Pac-10 career list.
Last year, he became the first Pac-10 player since blocks became an official statistic in 1977-78 to lead the conference in scoring (22.6 per game), rebounding (9.8) and blocks (2.34).
"Ike has been a tremendous Sun Devil since the day he signed his letter of intent and we are very thankful to him for all his hard work," Evans said in a statement. "He has been loyal, accountable and above all a great role model for all studentathletes. His numbers and consistency have been incredible, and our staff expects that to continue on to the next level."
The NBA and its player’s association agreed to terms on a new six-year collective bargaining agreement just hours before the draft decision deadline — a deal that gave Diogu more to think about.
Beginning July 1, the age eligibility for the NBA draft will be raised to 19 — eliminating high school seniors and younger European players from next year’s draft pool. That could have allowed Diogu to raise his stock into lottery territory with a strong senior season.
But the new labor agreement also allows NBA teams to terminate first-round rookie contracts after two seasons, while this year’s class is still guaranteed three years under the old agreement. Various mock drafts have Diogu anywhere from a lottery pick (No. 9 to Golden State) to an early secondround pick, with most seeing him in the 16-27 range. Diogu told FSNA he’ll work out next for the Lakers in Los Angeles before returning to Golden State for a second visit and finishing up with trips to Boston and Memphis this weekend.