Coming into the NBA as a lottery pick places a heavy amount of pressure on any player.
When compounded with playing on five teams in six years and dealing with the dreaded microfracture surgery, it’s a wonder that Los Angeles Clippers forward Ike Diogu is one of the most optimistic players in the league but no surprise that he is one of the most motivated players as well.
Diogu was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Golden State Warriors and traded two seasons later to the Indiana Pacers. From Indiana, trades to Portland and Sacramento followed before Diogu signed a free agent contract with the New Orleans Hornets. Diogu underwent knee surgery while with the Hornets and never appeared in a game for the team before he was released. A stint with the Detroit Pistons during pre-season in 2010 followed but yielded no contract at the end of his time in Detroit. Contemplating a move to China to kick-start his career, Diogu got a call from the Clippers and fifteen games in, is a valuable contributor to the team off the bench.
Prior to signing with Detroit in September, Diogu felt there was a chance he would be returning to New Orleans but upon the firing of Coach/GM Jeff Bower and the house cleaning of the Hornets bench and front office, Diogu was an afterthought to the new Hornets regime.
According to Diogu, “ In Detroit, I came into a situation where they already had fifteen guaranteed contracts so the likelihood of making the team, the odds were pretty much against me but I just wanted to use that to showcase to everybody that my knee was 100%.”
On the Clippers, Diogu is providing cover for the most electrifying player in the league at the moment, Blake Griffin. “ Vinny expects me to keep the energy level high in backing up guys like Blake and DeAndre(Jordan), so there can’t be any drop-off when I enter the game. That’s pretty much my role”.
With the goal of staying in the rotation and seizing the opportunity provided him on the Clippers this season, Diogu is ready to show NBA fans worldwide why he was one of the most heralded college players in the 2005 draft and next on his agenda is getting his feet wet in International competition for Nigeria. “Playing for Nigeria is definitely in my thought process, if we could put together the players we have out there, we could have a formidable team. You know it’s just a matter of reaching out to everybody and getting us together. The only reason I haven’t played in the past is that each summer I’ve had some kind of nagging injury.”
With the right mindset, ability and enthusiasm in his possession, it’s difficult to root against Diogu as he seeks to achieve longevity and success in the NBA.