Nigeria national team captain Ike Diogu, a well-traveled former NBA player, will begin the next chapter of his pro career with the Shimane Susanoo Magic.
The announcement, made on Monday by the B. League first-division squad, came a couple weeks before the FIBA World Cup tips off in China.
“I am extremely excited to continue my career in Japan,” the 206-cm power forward said in a team-issued statement. “I am especially looking forward to meeting with and playing in front of the Shimane fans, as I have heard that they are some of the best in the country.
“I can’t wait to play hard and represent the organization with all I’ve got. See you at the games.”
In a June interview with the Arizona Republic, Diogu reflected on his longevity as a player.
“Year 15 coming up,” the 2005 Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year told the newspaper. “I’m still blessed to be playing.”
Shimane general manager Kentaro Hori cited Diogu’s extensive international playing experience as a key reason the team was interesting in signing Diogu, who turns 36 in September.
Hori described Diogu as a player with impressive physicality who is adept playing outside and inside, according to a news release.
“I would like to make full use of Diogu’s power to contribute to victories, and by sharing in his experience so far,” Hori said. “I would like him to improve our team (strength).”
At the 2017 FIBA AfroBasket, the most recent continental championship, Diogu was named tournament MVP, and Nigeria was the runner-up to Tunisia (losing 77-65 in the final) in Tunis. Diogu led all players in scoring (22.0 points per game) and was third in rebounds (8.7). He also played for Nigeria in the 2012 London Summer Olympics and 2016 Rio Games.
Diogu, the No. 9 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, was a consensus second-team All-American as a junior at Arizona State, leading the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12) in scoring (22.6 points), rebounding (9.8) and block (2.3) per game. He was the first player in conference history to lead the league in all three categories in the same season, and was the first player since Stan Love of Oregon in 1969-70 and 1970-71 to top the scoring chart in back-to-back seasons after posting a 22.8 ppg average as a super sophomore.
Diogu played for six NBA teams (Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs) between 2005 and 2012. He appeared in 225 NBA games (18 starts). As a rookie, he played in a career-high 69 games for then-coach Mike Montgomery’s Warriors and averaged 7.0 ppg.
Years before the Warriors became a powerhouse team under coach Steve Kerr, Diogu gained mentorship from pre-Stephen Curry era players. In a 2006 interview with The State Press, ASU’s student newspaper, Diogu cited Calbert Cheaney and Derek Fisher as mentors.
“They do all types of things that really help you as a pro athlete,” Diogu told the publication. “Things beyond basketball like how to conduct yourself and how to dress and stuff.”
In the same interview, which almost seems like something unearthed from a time capsule 13½ years later, Diogu was also asked who was the first NBA player he dunked on. His response: “Shareef Abdur-Rahim. I didn’t really say anything really — it feels good to get your first dunk on somebody, but it’s not that big a deal in the NBA, it happens all the time.”
Abdur-Rahim is now the president of the NBA G League (formerly known as the NBA Development League).
Last season, the Susanoo Magic went 43-17 in B2 and earned promotion to the top flight. Bench boss Yukinori Suzuki is beginning his third season at the helm. (In 2017-18, Shimane had an 11-49 record in B1 and was demoted to the second division.)
After switching teams frequently in the NBA, Diogu career shifted to China (Xinjiang Flying Tigers) and Puerto Rico (Capitanes de Arecibo) to conclude the 2012 calendar year.
His 2012-13 season again featured two overseas gigs with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Guangdong Southern Tigers and Puerto Rico’s Leones de Ponce. From 2013-14, he also suited up for the NBA Development League’s Bakersfield Jam, and earned the D-League’s Impact Player of the Year award.
Five years later, Diogu’s hoop resume includes time with several more teams, including the Dongguan Legends and Jiangsu Monkey King, both in China.
While with the CBA’s Sichuan Blue Whales in the 2017-18 campaign, Diogu provided 28.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in 15 games, according to asia-basket.com. In 2018, he was back in Puerto Rico, appearing in 18 games for Vaqueros de Bayamon and supplying 17.3 points and 7.8 boards. Born in Buffalo, New York, Diogu was raised in Garland, Texas by his immigrant parents who moved to the United States in 1980.
In a 2008 interview with The Oregonian while he was playing for the Blazers, Diogu discussed one of his post-playing days aspirations. The newspaper also reported at the time that he owned more than 1,000 video games.
“I definitely want to get into the video game industry,” Diogu told The Oregonian. “People always ask me if there’s one thing I want to focus on. Is it the design aspect or is it the creative aspect? I’m kind of having a hard time deciding which one I want to settle on because it’s kind of like I want to do everything. I want to be in charge of the story. I also want to design things. I kind of want to do it all.”