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Arike Ogunbowale evolves Wings backcourt, set for rookie season in Dallas


The Dallas Wings made quite the splash with the fifth overall selection in the 2019 WNBA Draft, adding one of the most recognizable collegiate players in Arike Ogunbowale out of Notre Dame. By pick #19 in the second round, Notre Dame’s entire starting lineup found a home in the WNBA when the Los Angeles Sparks added Marina Mabrey. Doing her best to deliver the Fighting Irish a second consecutive national championship by pouring in 21 points to compliment Ogunbowale’s 31 in a one-point loss to Baylor, the Wings certainly landed the most dynamic player Muffet McGraw had on the floor the last four seasons.

Forward Jackie Young was the first Notre Dame starter drafted, first overall by the Las Vegas Aces.

It was Ogunbowale’s heroics in last year’s final four that garnered national attention, calmly knocking down game-winning three pointers against mighty UCONN and South Carolina to win Notre Dame a national title. Ogunbowale came painstakingly close to pulling off similar theatrics at this year’s Final Four in Tampa, splitting a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of that loss to Baylor.

She did score 23 points with six rebounds against Connecticut in the national semifinal. In their second straight season-ending win vs UCONN, Notre Dame held the Huskies to 76 points – their second lowest output of the tournament.

Led of course by fourth overall pick Katie Lou Samuelson and sixth overall pick Napheesa Collier, it’s Ogunbowale’s defensive tenacity that will fit well into a new-look Wings lineup. Dallas was tenth in points allowed per game through the regular season in 2018. They did struggle to defend the three-point line, allowing the second highest field goal percentage from beyond the arc in the league. Ogunbowale’s length paired with a year of experience out of Azura Stevens will give the Wings versatile options in the back court.

The Wings are preparing to play most of this season without another former star at Notre Dame, Skylar Diggins-Smith. While Ogunbowale isn’t a direct replacement for Diggins-Smith, who averaged an impressive 17.9 points per game, 6.2 assists, and 3.2 rebounds last season, she’s more than comfortable handling the ball as a point guard capable of creating her own shot.

Ogunbowale’s ability to probe a defense off the dribble will benefit the Wings star post player in Liz Cambage. This team should be able to play much faster with her in the lineup, creating points in transition off Ogunbowale’s dangerous pull-up game.

The fastest way for any player to gain the respect of an opposing coach is to knock down a high percentage of wide open shots while still being able to put the ball on the floor and score. Ogunbowale enters the WNBA with these pro-ready traits, joining a lineup that can maximize her potential to command the ball and take over a game.

Wings Head Coach Brian Agler is the only coach in WNBA history to win championships with two teams, looking to do so with the Wings in year two now. Drafting a player with the championship pedigree of Ogunbowale to join a Wings lineup that lacks WNBA experience but not the skill to compete, this team’s draft class was a major success after the fifth overall pick.

In round two, the Wings added another scorer in Iowa’s Megan Gustafson along with Kennedy Burke out of UCLA. Their final selection was Morgan Bertsch at 29th overall from University of California Davis.

Former radio voice for Montclair State Women's Basketball (NCAA Division III), Girls Basketball Coach, Dallas Wings Staff Writer

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