Diew prepared for another run at national title


Daniel Jacobi II

Nyamer Diew puts up a midrange shot in the game against SIUE in Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday Nov. 29, 2022.

Anthony Hanson, Sports Reporter

Nyamer Diew needed to change her mindset. 

The 2020-21 Butler women’s basketball team had zero wins on New Year’s Day. Diew’s freshman season in college basketball had proved to be more challenging than she ever imagined. 

She was living away from family back in Sioux City, Iowa. Plus, COVID-19 meant spending little time away from her team. This was rough, Diew said, with limited opportunities to visit her family. 

Plus, for the first time, she was not playing on a winning basketball team. 

Her stint at Butler was a wake-up call. College athletics would be tough, but Diew changed her attitude to prioritize growth as a player over wins.

“You’ll learn more in losing than you do in winning,” Diew said. 

This season, Diew is playing on one of the most talented teams in Iowa State women’s basketball history. She’s back on a winning team and drawing on her experience in the basketball world to add something extra.  

Diew has played on a plethora of basketball teams. From winning an AAU national championship alongside Paige Bueckers in high school to getting a taste of international basketball during the summer at the FIBA AfroBasket qualifiers, Diew is a seasoned veteran. 

The Iowa State forward has played outside Ames, outside college basketball and outside the United States, and she said that’s why she’s been able to bring her versatile skill set to the Cyclones’ stacked roster. 

It’s why Diew has the full trust of the Iowa State coaching staff to come off the bench and take on whatever the Cyclones might need. In fact, she played all five positions on the court in the first eight games of the year. 

“It helps me when the coaches have faith in you at every position, and then also just being willing,” Diew said. “I want to win, and so I’ll do anything to win.”

Representing South Sudan

Both of Diew’s parents were born in South Sudan. Her mother came to the United States in 2000 during the second Sudanese Civil War, and one year before Diew was born. 

In her own family, Diew sits in the middle of five siblings. 

She comes from a family of athletes ranging in age from eight to 24 years old. Her brother plays basketball at a junior college in her home state of Minnesota. Her younger brother plays basketball in high school, and her youngest brother is a soccer player. 

Diew’s brothers like to brag about the success their sister has gained on and off the court. They certainly have a lot to be proud of. 

Diew is a first-generation American and plans on being the first in her family to graduate college. She double majors in psychology and criminal justice and is fluent in English and Nuer. 

In 2021, Diew’s entire family gained another accomplishment to be proud of. 

Diew was a member of the first-ever South Sudan women’s national team. Diew, who holds dual citizenship to South Sudan and the United States, was a member of South Sudan’s team at the 2021 AfroBasket qualifiers in Rwanda. 

When Diew found out she would join the team, she called her mom. 

“They were definitely thrilled to hear that,” Diew said about her family’s reaction. 

The country gained independence in 2011 and joined FIBA in 2013. The women’s team played its first five international games in 2021 while attempting to qualify for the AfroBasket tournament. 

Playing for South Sudan was an experience that is hard to put into words, Diew said. On the court, it was just another opportunity to develop as a player and learn. 

“The game itself was way more aggressive,” Diew said. “To see how the pros maneuver and play against them–I love it.”

Competition was tough. Diew and her teammates were matched up with professional players, and the Iowa State forward was asked to play the point guard position. 

‘An opportunity to get better’

This season with the Cyclones, Diew has the pleasure of playing with the same core group of players. Ten of this year’s Cyclones, including Diew, were on the roster a season ago. 

A familiar roster for the first time in her college basketball career is helpful, she said. Plus, learning to play together and grow with new pieces like Stephanie Soares is a little difficult but fun, the Marshall, Minnesota, native said. 

And winning. Diew is enjoying Iowa State’s 10-3 record this season.

Nyamer Diew drives to the hoop against Southern on Nov.10, 2022. (Tyler Coe)

It’s why Diew will agree to play any position on the floor for Fennelly and staff. Diew will do anything to help the team win. 

In her basketball career, Diew has done plenty of winning. She scored over 1,000 points at East High School in Sioux City and won two conference championships. She helped All-American and fellow Minnesotan Paige Bueckers win an AAU national championship. 

Diew and her family moved to Sioux City and East High in 2018. This was her junior year of high school, and relocating meant losing contact with college recruiters during a key time in the recruiting process. 

Diew took a handful of visits and was heavily recruited by the University of Iowa. Ultimately, she committed to Butler to play her first season of college basketball. Iowa State did not recruit Diew coming out of high school. 

“College athletics is a grind,” Diew said. “You have to get stronger. You have to constantly be in the gym. 

Diew finished her freshman season at Butler with three wins, averaging 5.3 points per game in her 16 games and 10 starts. 

“It taught me a lot of things, a lot of good lessons,” Diew said. “It’s another opportunity to get better.”

‘Very much rewarding’

In last season’s NCAA tournament, three-seeded Iowa State faced six-seeded Georgia in the round of 32. Iowa State earned the win by 23 points and returned to the sweet sixteen for the first time since 2010. 

This was Nyamer Diew’s favorite memory of the historic season. She was in the starting lineup and posted five points while connecting for a three-point field goal. She also suffered a broken nose. 

In the next game for Iowa State, Diew took the court with a clear face mask. Her nose hurt during the flight to Greensboro, North Carolina, but after taking the court Diew didn’t notice any pain. She recorded a career-high of 15 points during the matchup with Creighton.  

Iowa State fell to Creighton and was knocked out of the tournament. But, Diew found herself drawing on past challenges and appreciating the bond she has built with the Iowa State locker room. 

“At times I didn’t have that,” Diew said. “To see how far we went last year to see how far we can go this year is definitely very much rewarding,” 

Diew struggled on and off the court at Butler. But within hours of entering the portal, she received a call from Fennelly. The head coach let her know personally what a great fit she would be in the Iowa State program. 

For Diew, Iowa State was a fit in terms of her core beliefs. She loved the culture the Iowa State program had to offer and the fan base, and Diew was excited to help Iowa State win.

Fast forward to this season and Diew has made a deeper connection with her Iowa State teammates. This past summer, Diew and teammates Ashley Joens, Lexi Donarski and Emily Ryan competed together at the Team USA 3v3 nationals. 

Joens went on to represent Team USA at the FIBA 3v3 World Cup, but all four gelled on and off the court. 

With Joens returning for another year in the Cyclone uniform, Iowa State and its core are poised for another run at the postseason. 

The wall at Iowa State’s Sukup practice facility is looking a little bare, Diew said. 

The versatile forward is looking to add a Big 12 Conference championship to the team’s list of accomplishments before the season ends.