Sun Devil star stepping out for sophomore season

Updated: October 14, 2003, 9:02 PM ET

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ike Diogu is steppin' out, literally, for his sophomore year at Arizona State, and he's keeping mum about whether this will be his final season of college basketball.

"I'm really focusing on this season and nothing else," he said Tuesday at the Sun Devils' basketball media day. "I don't want to look too far into the future."

That future looks fabulous for the 6-foot, 8-inch, 250-pound forward-center who averaged 19 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season and led Arizona State to an NCAA tournament berth.

"If he's not the best player in the country," coach Rob Evans said, "he's in the top three or four."

All those points in the paint that helped make him one of the country's top freshmen last season could give way to some sweet jumpers and power moves to the hoop this year as he positions himself farther from the basket.

"We've got some guys who can play inside," Evans said. "We'll move him outside. He can put the ball on the floor and he can do some things with it when he does put it on the floor."

Diogu showed flashes of his outside shooting touch last season, going 9-for-24 from 3-point range.

"I have a lot of confidence in my jump shot, and coach does, too," he said. "Whenever I'm out there he gives me the green light to take it."

He likes the idea of slipping outside, at least from time to time.

"Hopefully it will keep the double- and triple-teams off of me," Diogu said. "I've got to keep expanding my game because they're going to keep throwing different defenses at me. I've got to be prepared for anything."

Diogu was a member of the U.S. team at this summer's Pan American Games. He was disappointed that he didn't get much playing time, but said it was valuable experience. Now he's out to help his team, which has eight new players, improve on last season's NCAA appearance.

"I'm not satisfied," he said. "I feel I've got a lot more to accomplish."

Pac-10 freshman of the year and a conference all-star, Diogu has received plenty of preseason accolades. As always, he shrugs them off, punctuating his answers with a polite "yes sir."

"It's pretty nice, but I'm really not letting it get to my head," he said. "I'm still the same person. Nothing's changed."

Although he just turned 21, Diogu is one of the team's leaders, although a quiet one. His teammates know who the go-to guy is on their team, and their respect is obvious.

"I don't think anything will ever change Ike," point guard Jason Braxton said. "Money, success, fame -- whatever it is, he'll never change. He'll always be the great guy he is."

Evans continues to marvel at the way Diogu handles success.

"His personality is unmatched," Evans said. "In 36, 37 years of coaching, I've never had anybody like him."

Evans, of course, would love to have Diogu stay in college beyond the coming season. But he said he will work to make the big youngster ready for the NBA should he choose to go there.

"I'm going to enjoy him however long he's here," Evans said. "I certainly expect him to be here, but if he has a great year and he is mentally mature, physically ready to go, and if he can set himself up for a long, long time, I'm going to try to do the best I can to make sure he gets there."

Many before him have left early for the millions the NBA offers.

"It's not hard to resist," Evans said. "You just go."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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