Destiny's Child

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"I said, 'Your son is our number-one guy, but we have numbers two, three and four waiting in the wings. I don't want to lose all of them waiting for Ike's decision.' Mrs. Diogu stood up, walked in front of us and said, 'Coach, nobody pressures Ike. If you must move on, move on.' I say, 'No, ma'am, you don't understand. I'm gonna stay with Ike as long as I can. I just have to tell you what's going on on my end."

Diogu signed with ASU, but not before he addressed members of a Sun Devils sports Web site in defense of his father. It seems Edward Diogu had told a reporter that his son hadn't made up his mind yet, even after Diogu had suggested that he was going to ASU. That led some joker to write something untoward about the elder Diogu.

"Please don't make it seem like my dad is the enemy because he is not," Ike responded in his own e-mail. "He will support me in anything I decide. [But] if push comes to shove, I will not disobey my parents."

In the end, Diogu says, he didn't have to think about disobedience. And even though UConn went on to win the national championship last year, and Illinois currently is the nation's number-one team, Diogu swears that he has no regrets.

"I made the decision, and my parents agreed with it," he says. "Everything happens for a reason, and there was a reason I came to ASU, and for everything that's happening now."

In the hours before the February 17 home game against Oregon State, Ike Diogu sits with a visitor in his dorm room engaging in one of his favorite pastimes -- chilling.

It's a must-win for the Sun Devils, coming as they are off back-to-back losses in Los Angeles to UCLA and lowly USC. With the defeats, public talk about Coach Evans' future at ASU (or lack thereof) is reaching a crescendo.

But Diogu couldn't seem more relaxed.

"I decided as a junior in high school that basketball games weren't going to get me uptight," he says. "By then, I knew I had some people watching me, and I played lousy because I wasn't relaxed out there. I did some talking to myself after that."

His cell phone has been ringing incessantly. Diogu decides to answer one call, and has fun with a young woman on the other end.

"Of course I go to class," he says, feigning exasperation. "If I didn't go to class, I wouldn't be able to play. We have people who check up on us."

He listens to her for a moment, then says in mock-seriousness, "The question is, what will you be doing this weekend?"

Though Diogu doesn't have a steady girlfriend, he's popular with the ladies, and for obvious reasons: He's the real deal -- approachable, clever, good-looking, admired by all. Yet he's more interested in picking their brains than bragging on himself.

At 4 p.m., Diogu turns on a DVD of The Chronicles of Riddick, a futuristic adventure flick. He gets lost in the yarn for the next hour or so, occasionally checking on the time. Then, precisely at 5:15, he stands up, stretches, turns off the television set, and strolls out of his third-floor room for the short walk to the arena.

On the way, two or three people honk at him, and he waves back. Someone hollers out of a car window, "Double-double, Ike, double-double," referring to Diogu's habit of scoring in double figures in both points and rebounds.

ASU takes a surprising 16-point lead into halftime after Diogu hits a three-pointer at the buzzer, but prosperity definitely isn't this team's forte.

The Beavers storm back to take a one-point lead with six minutes left, shortly after Diogu collects his fourth personal foul. Thanks largely to the inspired play of forward Serge Angounou, the Devils retake the lead, but it's a mere two points with 41 seconds to play.

ASU's Bryson Krueger runs the baseline looking for a teammate to pass the ball to, but no one's open. About 40 feet away, Diogu screams for the ball and starts running downcourt.

Krueger lets it fly.

An Oregon State player sprints toward Diogu, getting there at the same time as the ball. Diogu fully stretches out his long arms and makes a fingertip, over-the-shoulder catch like a tight end. Somehow, he stops his big body without committing a traveling violation, and dribbles forward for a few seconds until the Beaver player has to foul him.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin