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Sunday, June 16, 2024
The Observer

Arike Ogunbowale selected No. 5 overall by Dallas Wings

Senior guard Arike Ogunbowale was selected as the No. 5 overall pick in the first round of the WNBA Draft by the Dallas Wings. Ogunbowale has been one of top names in this year’s draft class since she made back-to-back buzzer-beaters to defeat UConn and Mississippi State in the 2018 Final Four and became the second member of the Irish starting five drafted in the top five this year.

Ogunbowale said she was thrilled to be selected so high in the draft and she was proud to have been wanted by Dallas.

“[I just felt] excitement, you know, for the coach wanting me to be on their team, wanting me to help the program and just, you know, just choosing me,” Ogunbowale said. “Really, just really a lot of excitement.”

Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb said he was attracted to Ogunbowale at the No. 5 pick because of her ability to score and her ability to prove herself and rise to the occassion when the spotlight is shining at its brightest.

“I think Arike is a unique player in that she is a scorer. She is someone who puts the ball in the basket,” Bibb said. “She’s a player who can create her own shot. On top of that, I love her fearlessness. She wants the ball in the big moment and she certainly has proven to be able to deliver in that moment. I think she is especially dangerous in transition, and I think the program’s going to suit her very well. We’ve had a pretty good track record with Notre Dame guards in our organization, so I’m looking forward to having her join us.”

In terms of the solid Notre Dame record the Wings have had, Ogunbowale will be sharing the roster with former Irish guard Skylar Diggins-Smith. Ogunbowale surpassed Diggins-Smith as Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer when the Irish defeated Duke on Feb. 21.

“I’m excited. I’m excited thinking about [the two playing together] right now. Not only do you have two Notre Dame graduates, but you have two really good basketball players,” Bibb said. “Skylar is a combo guard so she certainly runs the point, but she can score the basketball as well, and within Arike’s dynamic game I think it will create a lot of matchup challenges for the opposition. And the other guards as well, Tayler Hill and Allisha Grey, Kaela Davis, I think we’re going to have a very talented backcourt.”

For Ogunbowale, playing alongside Diggins-Smith is an exciting prospect and something she hopes will prove to be a learning experience.

“That’s really big. I mean, she’s a great guard. I never was able to play with her. She was a lot older than me, but she’s a great guard and I’ve seen her do some great things in the league,” she said. “So I’m just really excited to be able to learn from her.”

Ogunbowale finished her Irish career with 2,626 points, 690 rebounds, 362 assists and 194 steals. She will graduate with a 0.444 field-goal percentage, a 0.393 3-point percentage and a 0.77 free-throw percentage. As a senior, Ogunbowale averaged 21.8 points per game.

Bibb said he feels Ogunbowale will continue to be a scoring guard in the Wings program.

“I see her as a 2-guard, a scoring guard. I think she’ll fit well with us,” he said. “We have a lot of talent on our roster but I fully expect her to come in and win a roster spot and be a big part of our team for this year and for the foreseeable future.”

While Ogunbowale said she still has a lot to learn about Dallas and the organization as a whole, one of the things she associates with the Wings right off the bat is its stellar guard play, which is extremely exciting for her, as a shooting guard.

“I know they have great guard play and I know they have some solid posts. I’m definitely looking for a little bit more [information],” she said. “I didn’t really search [because] I didn’t know if they were going to pick me or not, but I’m definitely going to look into it. But I’m just excited regardless.”

Ogunbowale also said she will need to focus on improving her speed when she first arrives in Dallas, as the league is made up of the premier basketball players in the world.

“You know, just keep excelling my game, get ready for the competitive nature there,” she said. “You know, they’re a lot bigger, they’re a lot faster [in the WNBA]. So definitely just let my game reach that potential and you know, that level.”

Bibb feels an increased attention to the defensive side of the ball will also play an important role in Ogunbowale’s adjustment to the WNBA.

“This is the best 144 players in the world, so there’s an adjustment for every player from the college game to the WNBA, regardless of where you came from and who you played for and the kind of competition you faced,” he said. “That said, I think Arike, probably, there will be an enhanced attention to defense. I think there’s probably an opportunity for her to continue to improve in that aspect of her game. But I have no question that she will come in and she will do great things for us, and we’re excited to have her on the roster.”

Ogunbowale was also able to look back on her four years at Notre Dame fondly, discussing the effect her time at the University has had on her.

“I mean, it’s my everything. It’s such an amazing school and not just about basketball. They’re always a top school in the country and academics,” she said. “And you know I’ve just met so many great people. The alumni, they love us; the fans, they love us. The support. I know they’re going to follow us to, you know, follow me to Dallas, follow Jackie, Marina [Mabrey], Jess [Shepard], Bri [Turner]. So, definitely, just the support, but being able to play for those coaches, Hall of Fame staff and I learned a lot from them every day for four years. So I’m just truly grateful.”