Even before Nigeria’s self-imposed two-year ban from international basketball was announced last month, D’Tigers captain Ike Diogu saw the writing on the wall and joined Snoop Dogg’s Big3 team, Bivouac.
Having previously turned down approaches to play in the Big3, a professional 3×3 league founded by rapper Ice Cube, in favour of national team duty, Diogu changed his mind this year and signed on after competing in the Basketball Africa League.
“I’ve actually been asked to play [Big3] a number of years. It’s just that with all my national team stuff, I just was never able to actually do it, but this was a year when things worked out schedule-wise, so I figured I’d give it a go.” Diogu told ESPN.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on with the national team right now, so I just decided to make a decision for myself based off some of the feedback that I had been getting — and not even necessarily about the ban, either.
“It’s just some of the stuff going on with me personally and the national team. I can’t really say for anybody else — just for me personally. I just kind of figured that my summer was going to be freer than it had been in previous years.”
Although he would ordinarily be preparing to represent his country at this time of year, Diogu, who also has NBA experience with the Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, LA Clippers and San Antonio Spurs, is not going to be treating the Big3 as a holiday.
“[I’ll approach the Big3 with] the same intensity [as any other tournament]. At the end of the day, it’s still basketball. It’s professional basketball. You never know who’s watching. For me, every time I go out to play is a showcase, because as you start getting older, people look at that number [38 years old] and get kind of scared,” he said.
“I’ve got to go out there and prove that I’m still in tip-top shape — prove that I can still be effective. There’s a lot of good players in this league, so the last thing you want to do is come out and get embarrassed because you’re not prepared. That’s not what I’m going to do — I’m going to take this with a very serious approach.
“I’m still enjoying the game of basketball, still very effective. As long as I’m healthy, still effective and still enjoying it, I’m going to continue to play. I like playing with different players from different walks of life. Especially, it’s kind of cool when I play against some of these super young guys who are 19, 20, 21.
“I give them a different perspective because I came from a different era of basketball to the way that it’s played now. I think it’s pretty cool to be one of the elder statesmen still left in the game.”
Specifically, Diogu is aiming to earn another BAL contract, having finished third with Zamalek this year.
When asked how he enjoyed the revised format of the BAL, and playing with a new team, he said: “It probably exceeded my expectations. The playoff format was pretty fun, pretty cool.
“It was just disappointing that we weren’t really at 100%, so it was going to be kind of hard to compete for the championship, because I think that we really needed to be at 100% to beat US Monastir [in the semifinals].
“That’s just how the game goes sometimes, but everything was nice — Rwanda was nice, the basketball was great. Everything was just really good about the league. You never know what the future holds, but I hope to play in another edition of the BAL.”
As for his international career, Diogu returned to the D’Tigers roster last November for the first round of 2023 FIBA World Cup African qualifiers. But he was one of 15 players who signed a letter prior to NBBF presidential elections saying that they would withdraw from the national team if president Musa Kida was not replaced at the helm of the organisation.
Still, the power forward/center has not given up on playing for Nigeria again. As far as he is concerned, however, even if the ban were to be lifted, the NBBF would still have changes to make before he would consider returning.
When asked whether it was too early to rule out a D’Tigers return, Diogu said: “I don’t know. You can never rule out anything. I think that the question that people should ask doesn’t really have anything to do with me, because I’ve pledged my allegiance to the country since day one.
“I think people need to ask those people in power if they want to have somebody like myself on the team. You probably won’t be able to get those answers. It will just be one of those questions that I don’t know if you’re ever going to get the answer to. As for me, I think everybody knows exactly where my loyalty stands.”