Warriors Always Liked Ike
Chris Mullin knew Ike Diogu was his man the first time he saw him work out for the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors vice president made sure when he brought Diogu back for a second workout. And then Mullin kept his mouth shut, as evidenced by the fact that the Arizona State star was not one of the players invited to the NBA/ESPN Draft Party at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Diogu, in fact, hadn't even talked to Mullin or the Warriors since his last workout. When the Warriors were on the clock before the ninth pick on Tuesday night, Diogu was at home with family and friends in the Dallas area thinking he was a longshot at best to go next.
The names Danny Granger, Hakim Warrick and Gerald Green were floating around the air as potential Warriors picks, from television experts to mock drafters around the Internet.
"We were a little surprised by (Toronto picking Charlie Villanueva seventh), but that didn't change our thinking," Mullin said. "We liked Ike."
Commissioner David Stern took the stage and announced that the 6-foot-8, 255-pound power forward was going to Golden State.
"I was in shock," Diogu said. "And then I heard the uproar around me."
The 2005 Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year, Diogu became the third player to lead the league in both scoring (22.6) and rebounds (9.8), joining Cal's Mark McNamara in 1982 and Oregon State's A.C. Green in 1985. Diogu also led the conference in blocks (2.34), becoming the first Pac-10 player to rank first in each of those three categories.
"He gives us an inside presence, the ability to score the ball inside, get fouled and make free throws," Warriors general manager Rod Higgins said. "Those are things our team lacked, the pounding and the banging inside."
Diogu, 21, earned first-team All-Pac-10 all three seasons and became the first player to lead the conference in scoring in consecutive years (22.8 in 2003-04) since Stan Love of Oregon did it from 1969-71.
Diogu, who has been compared to the Los Angeles Clippers' Elton Brand, has a 7'4" wingspan and tremendous footwork. Diogu gets to the line often as his 248 free throws made broke his own conference record.
"We were looking for low-post scoring, toughness and rebounding," Mullin said. "It's hard to find all wrapped up in one."
Bay Area fans are very familiar with Diogu, as he destroyed Stanford and Cal last year in his junior season. He scored 28 points and pulled down 15 rebounds at Stanford, then scored a career-high 39 points in the rematch at Tempe. Two nights later, he had 35 points against Cal.
"If you factor in the way the team is made up, his style of play is a very good fit," Higgins said. "Back-to-the-basket scoring is something we traditionally don't have."
Diogu joins Golden State centers Adonal Foyle and Andris Biedrins and power forwards Troy Murphy and Zarko Cabarkapa on what has become a very formidable front line very quickly.
Diogu erased some of the questions about his height and effectiveness inside against bigger players in his first workout with the Warriors.
"I can play with guys three inches bigger than me," Diogu said.
Diogu is naturally very excited about moving to Oakland and being a part of the Warriors' resurgence.
"Baron Davis brings a lot to the table and this should be a real big year for us," Diogu said. "Once I get acclimated to the NBA, I will be able to contribute and help us win."
Obviously, Diogu is happy with his decision to leave Arizona State a year early, but he did debate the move until the last minute. In fact, it was his father, Dr. Edward Diogu, who convinced him to turn pro.
"It was a very tough decision," he said. "I have been living in Arizona for three years and the bond I had with my teammates was unbelievable. I mean, going to college is the best time of your life."
Arizona State coach Rob Evans had weighed in after Diogu's sophomore season that his star player was not ready for the NBA. This summer, he has all but shown Diogu the door, knowing that the power forward is much more than the bull in the china shop that he used to be.
"He's extended his range, he's gotten better at defending on the perimeter and he's learned how to pass out of double teams," Evans said.
All of which Mullin whispered under his breath after Diogo's two workouts with the Warriors.
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