When it comes to the topic of basketball in Nigeria, the first name that comes to mind is always Ike Diogu, the captain of the national team, the vastly experienced power forward who has seen it and done it all at the highest level.
Even though he was born in New York to Nigerian parents who had immigrated to the United states 3 years before, Ike Diogu is very much Nigerian by upbringing.
He’s always been very vocal about the way he was raised, citing the influence of his parents and those around him always communicating in local dialect as the major reason he felt Nigerian at heart even though he lived most of his life in the US.
His family was one of sports, his brothers played American football and achieved success at college level and Ike wanted to be just like them and follow in their footsteps, but his rapid growth in height steered him towards basketball instead.
After catching the eye in high school, Diogu excelled in college with Arizona State university where he garnered several honors, including the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, and then Pac-10 Player of the Year in his final season as a Junior.
He made the decision to forgo his final year of college eligibility and declare for the NBA draft in 2005 and was selected 9th overall by the Golden state warriors, in what was an emotional moment for his family.
For reasons best known to him, Ike Diogu never really made the kind of impact he was expected to make in the NBA but he remains confident it had nothing to do with his ability.
At club basketball level, Ike Diogu is very much a journeyman, he played for 17 teams in the space of 14 years, 6 of those in the NBA, but it was with the D’Tigers he found some semblance of stability, which was probably why his best performances were with the national team.
Diogu has been playing with the senior men’s Nigeria national basketball team since 2011 and he has competed at two Summer Olympics in 2012 and 2016 with a potential for the 3rd one in 2021.
He is currently the team captain and was named MVP of the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket tournament which Nigeria won with him leading from the front, averaging 22 points, 8.7 rebounds in the tournament.
Ike Diogu knows what it means to be an ambassador for the national team, he’s been through ups and downs, he’s been a part of the D’Tigers since before it became fashionable for top players.
And Ike’s impact in the team is undeniable, basketball in Nigeria has grown in leaps and bounds since 2011 when he first joined the team, the D’Tigers are now the best team in Africa, 22 in the world and now set to make a third consecutive appearance at the Olympics.
The D’Tigers are now a global brand, with Mile Brown coordinating the X and Os, and Ike Diogu looking set to once again lead the team on the court to another Olympic games and may be even one more Afro Basket, all at the ripe age of 37.