Former Sun Devil Ike Diogu hopes to surprise, make Phoenix Suns roster

PHOENIX — Ike Diogu made a surprise appearance on the Phoenix Suns training camp roster on Media Day, and “surprise” is one word that the former Arizona State forward did this summer, leading the Nigerian national team through qualifying play in the Olympics.

And Diogu would love to be surprised by the Suns handing him a roster spot. He came to Phoenix about two weeks ago and ran with Phoenix players in open gym sessions.

“You know, I guess I played well in open gym,” the former Sun Devil said. “A lot of the guys were impressed and I guess it just trickled down to the front office and the coaches.”

Earning an invite to the training camp in La Jolla, Calif., might have had to do with forward Channing Frye’s heart condition that will keep him out of action. The 29-year-old Diogu poses the biggest threat of the training camp invitees to make the Suns roster, having six years of NBA experience with the Warriors, Pacers, Trail Blazers, Kings, Clippers and Spurs.

With NBA career averages of 6.0 points and 3.1 rebounds, Diogu is using his success with the Nigerian national team as a second wind of sorts. He said that he not only built confident in playing against the world’s best, but also proved that he’s an NBA-level big man.

“It definitely helped my confidence, because I got to play against all the premier players in the world,” Diogu said, “you know, from the Dream Team to all the top big men internationally. As everybody saw, I surprised a lot of people with the way I was able to play against some of those big names out there, and you know, kind of dispelling the rumor about whether I can play against size or not because I played center.

“Everybody who I played against was at least two or three inches taller than me,” he added. “Like I said, I was able to hold my own and surprise people.”

The highlight for Diogu may have been in the historic 156-73 blowout loss to the United States in the qualifying round. Diogu scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 30 minutes against the undersized but talented Americans. Against current Sun Luis Scola’s Argentinian squad, Diogu scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a 93-79 loss.

What could Diogu do for Phoenix?

Rebounding might be needed. And Diogu’s low post game and below-the-rim play might overshadow his shooting range. Against Scola’s team in the Olympics, Diogu was 2-for-2 from the international three-point line.

Now, he’s hoping there’s a place for him with the Suns.

“It’s all about being in the right place at the right time,” Diogu said Monday. “I honestly believe — I don’t care how good of a player you are — if you’re not in a really good situation, you’re not going to be able to flourish and your growth is going to be stunted as a player.

“This is a new opportunity and that’s all you can ask for, is an opportunity and a chance.”

Tags: Ike Diogu

  • Scott

    I guess with Ike’s size, he’d project to play more at PF or even SF, but liabilities on his offense and defense keep him at C. Combine that with the long range shooting mentioned above (a small sample, but showing accuracy), and he starts to sound a lot like Frye.

    If Turner’s defensive schooling can help him like it helped Frye, Diogu might be able to find a spot for himself on the roster. Hopefully, though, if he plays well enough to win a multi-year contract, he won’t get overpaid like Frye.

    Both Frye and Diogu were on the verge of exiting the league when they came to Phoenix. They did not play well for other teams. Even if they’re playing well for Phoenix, there’s no reason to overpay.

  • suns68

    I don’t think Frye was overpaid, (at least not by the standards of NBA players).

    He was a unique NBA weapon that suited our playing style by pulling opposing centers out of the paint, opening room for Nash to do his pick and roll thing.

    It seems like Phoenix management and blog commenters are in agreement that we should be able to get star players at or near league-minimum contracts.

    I don’t think it works that way very often. If guys aren’t making the big bucks it’s because they’re damaged goods in one way or another.

    And if a guy’s been in the league six years and has worn six different uniforms, that ought to tell you something.

  • Scott

    @suns68 -

    I can see your point, as while I think Frye was overpaid, it’s not by much. I think he was overpaid mainly because the Suns really really really needed a big man at that point and they wanted to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

    I think that in general the Suns overpay players, and this goes back to the Colangelo days. I’m thinking $5m instead of $6m for Frye.

    IMO, you have to be careful about paying too much for guys who are basically 2nd unit guys or role players. You should be putting more of your team’s money toward the stars. As a rule of thumb, I’d want to keep all my bench players under $5m each.

    Keep in mind that Frye was going nowhere with the Knicks and Blazers. It’s doubtful any other team would have paid him more than $3m. Diogu is in an even worse situation, being with his 7th team now, if he gets picked up by the Suns.

  • Michael

    If Ike gets a roster spot, it will definitely be a minimum contract for one year, right? Anything else would be a waste of money as it seems clear to me that we are talking about the no. 5 big man (Gortat, Scola, Morris, O’Neal).
    And I still hope Channing will be back latest next season.

  • Scott

    @Michael -

    I would assume so. However, I was looking ahead to “what if Diogu sticks?”

    Frye was originally taken in on a provisional basis as well. Then, because the Suns were short on big men, he was signed to a larger contract.

    The Suns are presently loaded with bigs. However, if Scola is traded in the summer, JO plays just the one year, and if Frye is looking at medical retirement, then that leaves only Gortat and Morris, and maybe Beasley, if you count him as a big. In a situation like that, if Diogu has played well, the Suns might sign him to a bigger contract out of desperation.

  • Scott

    BTW, there’s a video on where they ask the players silly questions …

    Gortat turns out to be the only renegade of the group. He picks Android over Apple, and Batman instead of Superman. He also announces that his new nickname is “the Polish gazelle.” ;)

  • Ty-Sun

    Diogu sounds like a good option for the Suns. He has experience and can play both the 4 and 5 spots which, to me, makes him even more valuable if injuries crop up and he has to fill in as a backup at either spot. I would expect him to start out the season as the 11th/12th man on the roster though with an non guaranteed minimum salary one year contract.

  • Bill_Thomas

    Go with Solomon Jones and Zeller. Jones a shot-blocker, rebounder, hustle player, tough guy with a great sense of humor, Zeller a huge guy with an in-between shot. Diogu is neither fish nor fowl, and should go home to Michael Jordan.