Destiny's Child

Page 5 of 7

In 1980, Jane and Edward Diogu moved to Buffalo, New York, from their native Nigeria to continue their respective educations.

Edward Diogu was completing work on his doctorate at the state University at Buffalo, while his wife was working on her bachelor's degree in education.

The Diogus already had two young sons, both of them born in Africa. Jane Diogu soon gave birth in the States to another child, a daughter.

Then, in June 1983, she bore her fourth and final baby, an 11-pound, 24-inch-long specimen with unusually long fingers and big feet.

The couple decided to name their youngest Ikechukwa Somotochukwa Diogu.

Edward Diogu explains that the first name (pronounced E-KAY-CHU-KWU) means "God's power" in his native language. The surname Diogu means "leader of the troops," or general.

"I have always called him a child of destiny, destiny's child," says Edward Diogu, who holds a Ph.D. "Did I dream he was going to play basketball and lead his team? No, I never had those dreams. We just liked the name and it came out that way."

The Diogu boys all loved to play football (the two older boys later played major-college ball), and their parents encouraged all of their children to participate in athletics. But sports always have taken second place in this family to academics.

"To tell you how diligent we have been," Edward Diogu says, "Ike did not miss one day of school ever -- in elementary school, middle school and high school. Ever."

Even now, with Diogu's future at ASU hanging in the balance, his parents remain concerned about his continued academic success.

"It would be the greatest paradox for Ike not to earn his degree, especially in our household," his father says, chuckling only slightly.

He points out that Ike's two brothers are working on their master's degrees, and his sister is set to graduate this May from North Texas State. Edward and Jane Diogu teach in the Dallas school district: He teaches high school French, and English As a Second Language. She teaches elementary school social studies.

Coach Evans says that Mrs. Diogu asked to speak with him for a moment during a basketball practice around Christmas.

"They had to leave for Texas, and she wanted me to know something," he recalls. "I turned the practice over to my assistants, and sat down with her. She said, 'Coach, we love what you've done with Ike, but please make sure you stay on him about this certain class. He needs to do well in it to get to the next level.' I said, 'You know we'll do that.'"

Suffice it to say that Ike Diogu decided to attend ASU after a series of fortuitous events combined with hard recruiting work. Assistant coach Tony Benford says he first identified Diogu as a prospect as a sophomore at Garland High School.

"He was overlooked at first, but we saw something in him right away," says Benford. "Later on, we were the first to offer him a scholarship. We went to his home three times, Coach [Evans] and me. We saw right away that this was a great Christian family all about substance, not flash and dash. Loyalty is huge to Ike, and to us. I told him that before it was over, his name was going to be synonymous with ASU basketball, and he was going to be an All-American. I told him that he was going to get a lot of touches in his freshman year, and he did. He developed a lot quicker because of his opportunity."

But getting Diogu to commit wasn't a slam dunk for the Devils after his stock rose precipitously during his junior season at Garland High.

Bigger-name programs -- including Illinois, Kansas, Georgetown, Alabama and, finally, powerful Connecticut -- came courting, and Rob Evans feared he might lose an essential piece of his rebuilding plan.

"I brought him to Tempe as soon as we could do so legally during our first week of school in his senior year," Evans says. "He came out with his mom and a coach. Mrs. Diogu was very, very meticulous in everything she was looking at and the questions she was asking of me and my wife [Carolyn]. It was all about academics and about how we treat our kids."

Knowing of the other colleges hot on Diogu's trail, the coach traveled to Garland the very next week: "We sat in their living room with two of Ike's coaches, his mom and dad, brothers, aunts, uncles and so on. Mrs. Diogu tells us that they can tell him where to go to school, but they wouldn't do that. . . . I felt like I had to make a stand.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin