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Welcome back to Season 11 of the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast! In Episode #334, host Andrea Samadi reconnects with Ike Diogu, a former Division I college athlete turned pro, whose impressive mental mindset left a lasting impact on her over 20 years ago.

Watch this interview on YouTube here

EPISODE #334 with Nigerian-American Basketball Player, Ike Diogu on “The Mindset of a Champion” we will cover:

✔ Ike’s journey from ASU to the NBA and Beyond.

✔ How his upbringing, influenced by his family shaped his mental toughness

✔ How his coach, teammates and personal values played a role in his success in the NBA and as the captain of the Nigerian Basketball Team.

✔ How Ike inspired Andrea, over 20 years ago, to continue working with students and social and emotional learning skills.

Discover the story of Ike’s journey from Arizona State University to the NBA, and how his upbringing, influenced by a deep-thinking father and supportive siblings, shaped his mental toughness. Learn how Ike’s coach, teammates, and personal values played a role in his success, both in the NBA and as a captain of the Nigerian national basketball team.

Andrea and Ike delve into the importance of mental preparation, goal setting, and the power of a supportive environment. Ike shares his experiences from the Rio 2016 Olympics and his ongoing passion for basketball and mentoring others. This episode is a testament to the power of social and emotional learning, and the impact of mental mindset on achieving extraordinary results.

Don’t miss this inspiring conversation that highlights the intersection of neuroscience, emotional intelligence, and athletic excellence.

On today’s episode #334 we meet with someone who caught my eye, over 20 years ago when I worked with athletes at Arizona State University. Sitting in front of Ike Diogu, years before his exciting career would unfold, I just knew he would be successful. I was in my late 20s, and hadn’t published my first book yet, The Secret for Teens Revealed, that was written with the purpose to help our next generation sharpen the skills that were integral for achieving goals (in school and sports). It designed to develop certain ways of behaving and more importantly, thinking, that would enable young people to achieve whatever it is that they want in life.

Working with elite College athletes at ASU, I thought would be a great place to test out the chapters of this book (Chapter 1- Developing a Winning Attitude, Chapter 2- Developing Your Mind, Chapter 4-Goal-Setting and Persistence, Chapter 5-Building Your Confidence Formula for Predictable Results for Success). You get the point here. So, one day, I asked Ike a series of questions to “feel out” where his mindset was, and I’m not kidding, he almost knocked me out of my chair.

Whatever I asked Ike, he had a well-thought out answer, that told me for certain that he didn’t need the book I wanted to publish. He had already learned these skills at a young age, that I knew would skyrocket his future success. I just remember thinking “where will Ike Diogu end up?” and while I didn’t follow his career over the years, I did see his photo on the wall one day, going down to the baggage claim at Arizona’s Sky Harbor Airport, and it was then that I thought back to the moment I knew this young man had everything he needed, for an exciting and successful life.

Of course I was going to look for him, and see if he would be open to coming on the podcast. We’ve learned about the Daily Grind in the NHL on EP #38[i], Accelerating Leadership in the NFL on EP #166[ii] but I knew I’ve always been missing the Mindset of the Athlete.

I’m honored, and so excited to connect back with Ike Diogu,[iii] who I’ve not seen face to face for over 20 years, and dive into “The Mindset of a Division 1 College Athlete Turned Pro.”

Welcome Ike!

Thank you for agreeing to meet up with me here, and filling me and our listeners in to what you’ve been up to the past 20 years!!  I wonder, when I reached out to you, do you remember me from back at ASU? You wouldn’t know that that was my first official job in the US. I came from Toronto, Canada, with so many hopes and dreams for our next generation, and September 11th really made it difficult for me. Working with you gave me vision and hope during what I remember as my most difficult and challenging times in a new country. I used to look forward to those days at ASU, and knew you were helping me much more that I was helping you.  It does come full circle sometimes when we get to tell those people who helped to motivate and inspire us. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to work with you back then.

INTRO Q: Before we get to where you went after I met you at ASU, can you just orient our listeners to your background BEFORE you went to College at ASU? Where did you grow up, and I’m looking for where did your winning mindset come from? Was it your Dad with a doctorate degree in Philosophy do you think? Who taught you these skills (they are called SEL skills now)–I knew they were important, (had this book written but not yet published) and they hadn’t yet made it into our schools yet?

Q1: I mentioned that you made a memorable impression on me all those years ago. It was your mental mindset that stood out to me. So much so, that when I saw your photo on the wall at the Phoenix airport, going down to the baggage claim, I completely freaked out and said to my husband “I knew Ike Diogu was going places! I just knew it!” I’ve kind of got a 6th sense for seeing talent, and while I like to see the talent in EVERYONE, I notice that not everyone uses the gifts they’ve been given, but you were in full use of them all when I met you. I had to watch an incredible interview you did on “Pioneering the Golden Age of Nigerian Basketball” from 3 years ago to get up to speed with where I last saw you, but can we start with something I saw somewhere that you said in that interview? You said “throughout all the adversity that I had throughout my professional career, I think the mental toughness (Coach Evans) instilled helped me get through some of the really tough times I faced.” I remember your Coach walking around at ASU…he had quite the presence.  How did coach Evans help strengthen your mental toughness? I saw it as very strong already, back then. What did he teach you to set you up for success AFTER playing College Basketball?

Q2: I’ll credit the photos I’m using in this interview to the African in Sports interview you did 3 years ago. It did help me to accurately see where you went after ASU. I had no idea…I just knew you would do amazing things in the world. In this photo, the interviewer asked about your teammates at ASU and look at that smile. I knew ASU was special for you, but what do you think made it so special, enough that you would really have to think about leaving there, to go to the NBA?

Q3: Let’s go to when you were drafted to the NBA. You said yourself “I never would have imagined that I would have made the jump that I made.” I did…but 20 years ago, ( I saw you would have Quantum Leap success) I was just learning to trust things like heightened intuition that I never ignore anymore. Tell me about your mindset of “putting your name into the draft” and then playing at open gym in Garland, TX. In the back of your mind, what were you thinking?

Q4: So, back at ASU, I remember asking you questions about where your confidence levels were, or your attitude and mental mindset. Those are all pretty normal questions, but I knew they weren’t being taught in our schools. Now I’ve been researching the science behind high performance for 20 years, and working on bridging the gap with some things that might be considered spiritual in nature, but when I saw the #9 that you wore for when you were drafted into the NBA for the Golden State Warriors, I can’t help but ask “what does the number 9 mean to you? Anything? Or are you just assigned that number based on your pick? I ask this because the #9 is considered a lucky number in many cultures, and is associated with spiritual growth, selflessness and humanitarianism.

I had to look at the numbers you wore at ASU. #5-is known for freedom, curiosity and change, as well as a desire to have adventures and explore new possibilities (which I think is interesting that it’s here where you left College BB and leaped forward to the NBA).  Does this mean anything to you?

Then #6 is associated with responsibility, service and nurturing, that I saw you brought to the Nigerian Team with your background in the NBA. But I also saw a photo of you on your IG page, in front of Garland High School, that has the slogan “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.” I’m guessing this was your High School. Do you think your natural ability or drive to serve others began here, or before this?

There isn’t any science to the numbers, but I did notice the well-known numerology meanings coincided with each team, staring with #9 and I was curious if any of the numbers have meaning to you.

Q5: So, now take us to Nigeria where I saw you were the Captain of your team. What did you teach your team that you learned from the NBA about preparing to go against your opponent?

Q6: I heard you say “In order to get to the next level that we want to go, you need to do X, Y, and Z” and I wonder what were some of the important strategies you taught them? What was X, Y and Z?

Q7: The Rio 2016 Olympics—What was that experience like?

Q8: Where are you now? Are you playing for Venezuela? What’s been your path since the Olympics? What is your vision for the next 5 years?

Ike, it’s been an honor to reconnect with you. I’m so grateful for this chance to have you on the podcast really just to let you know that you had these skills all along, and I hope other who tune in around the world can gain some inspiration and hope from your life experience. When I look back over the years, the people I’ve had on as guests have made an impact on me in some way (whether from their research in the scientific world, or in education, or those who just made me stop and think about how I can better serve the world). You definitely caught my attention 20 years ago, and watching the interview you did (African in Sports Interview)[iv] I was beyond moved from not only your mindset for excellence, but the desire to help others to reach their greatest heights. I look forward to following your work in the future, and know you will continue to stand out in your field.

Thanks for meeting with me today!


Some final thoughts. At the end of this interview, I thanked Ike for giving me such incredible hope at a time in my life when I didn’t have it all figured out. I remember having these huge visions for these important social and emotional learning skills that were not yet taught in our schools, and Ike’s grasp of these skills propelled me forward. This was years before we had the research behind these SEL Competencies that we now know skyrocket academic achievement, healthy relationships, mental wellness and so much more.[v] These SEL skills are integral in our classrooms today. I think it’s important to be open at all times to learn from others, as you never know what it is that might help you in the future, like Ike helped me to stay focused on this work. I do highly encourage watching the interview I mentioned, “Ike Diogu: Pioneering the Golden Age of Nigerian Basketball”[vi] if you want to learn all of the details of Ike’s Motivating Story “Diving into the Mindset of a D1 College Basketball Player, turned Pro.”

I’m grateful to have had the chance to reconnect with Ike, and do want to give a shout out to all the parents out there, like Ike’s Dad, who are raising their children to be mentally and physically strong. Also, the coaches, like coach Evans[vii], who took Ike to the heights he needed to be successful at the pro level, and taking his mental toughness to greater heights.

I believe we all have the ability to do just what Ike did, (maybe not with basketball, but I mean make Quantum Leaps with our results) and as Ike said himself, he “never would have imagined making the jump that (he) made.” But I did. I bet his Dad and family did as well. And Coach Evans did. Ike was surrounded by people who believed in him.

Which is a testament for all of us to keep learning, growing, and reaching for the next level in whatever it is that we want in our lives, and encourage others to do the same.

I’ll end with a quote from Thomas Edison:

See you next week as we continue with our Self-Leadership Series, and chapter 9, on Self-Regulation.


Ike Diogu | Pioneering the Golden Age of Nigerian Basketball | AIS

Ike Diogu on Instagram




[iii] Ike Diogu

[iv]Ike Diogu | Pioneering the Golden Age of Nigerian Basketball | AIS


[vi] Ike Diogu | Pioneering the Golden Age of Nigerian Basketball | AIS