Stanford is one of women's college hoops' most storied programs, with national titles, Final Fours and All-Americans galore. The Farm has had many first-round WNBA picks, but has never produced the top pick in the WNBA draft.
That changes now, as Nnemkadi ("Nneka") Ogwumike is the likely first name to be called at the 2012 WNBA draft on Monday. One of the greatest players in NCAA history, Ogwumike appears primed to star in the WNBA.
Turn the page to see why.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike is better known by her nickname, Nneka. A native Texan and the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, the 6'2" power forward is blessed with quickness, length and one of the best vertical leaps in women’s CBB.
Nneka majored in psychology at Stanford and has already earned her degree, with a 3.1 GPA.
She was the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2008 and a McDonald’s All-American at Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, TX, where she was also All-State in volleyball and co-captain of the track team. We are talking about a great all-around athlete, with hops and quicks.
Ogwumike played in four Final Fours. She and her Cardinal teammates came up a bit short each time, but she has proven herself again and again on the biggest stage in women’s CBB.
Her postseason scoring average was an eye-popping 26.8 ppg as a senior, as she lit up the Pac-12 tourney and all of Stanford’s NCAA opponents, including Baylor.
She also has extensive national team experience, including the 2011 gold medal-winning World University Games team (13.2 ppg and 5.7 rpg) and the 2008 FIBA U19 World Championship team.
Ogwumike poured in a Stanford single-season record of 22.5 ppg as a senior, despite being the focal point of every opposing defense, most of which double-teamed her the instant she touched the ball.
She scored 2,491 points in her Cardinal career, second only to Candice Wiggins.
She is virtually unguardable from the low block, and displays her athleticism in cutting toward the basket without the ball. Her leaping ability means she plays much taller than her 6'2" height. Just ask Tennessee, against whom Ogwumike scored a career-high 42 points last December.
Even better, she has developed a reliable mid-range jumper to complement her unstoppable inside game. As a senior, she shot 54.7 percent overall, and 83 percent on free throws.
For her career, she was a 58.3 percent shooter and hit 77 percent of her free throws. Those are excellent numbers that should translate well to the pro game as her jump shooting range continues to increase.
Ogwumike is a ferocious, relentless rebounder. She is strong and instinctual and gets great position, and uses her leaping ability and athleticism on both ends of the court. All of which should be just as effective in the WNBA.
As a senior, she averaged 10.2 rebounds per game (second best ever at Stanford), over six on the defensive end and an impressive 3.4 on the offensive glass. Any WNBA coach would be glad to have an extra three-plus possessions per game.
In her Stanford career, Ogwumike played in 145 games. Notwithstanding her aggressive rebounding style and overall dynamic and physical presence near the basket, she fouled out just once, as a freshman.
High hoops IQ.
Somehow through all the attention focused on her by opponents, Ogwumike registered 19 double-doubles as a senior. She barely missed a 20th in the national semifinal loss to Baylor, where she scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Against Brittney Griner & Co.
For her career, she had an impressive 51 double-doubles. That is Kevin Love territory.
Ogwumike’s development into an all-around star is reflected in her season-by-season improvement in assists, blocks and steals over the course of her college career.
As a sophomore, she played 30.4 minutes per game. In her senior year, playing 30.5 minutes per game, she set season career highs in blocks, steals and assists, with decisive upticks over her sophomore numbers in blocked shots (40 vs. 17 as a sophomore), steals (49 vs. 33) and assists (63 vs. 53).
She’s probably capable of yet more growth as a ball handler, passer and defender. Scary.
Ogwumike is a winner. She helped Stanford run its unbeaten streak against Pac-10 and Pac-12 opponents to a gaudy 78 games, dating back to January 2009.
Stanford, by the way, has won or shared the Pac-10/12 title all but five times since the conference began recognizing women’s basketball in 1986. During Ogwumike's tenure on The Farm, the Cardinal won four league championships.
WNBA and US national team coaches like players who want to win and know how to win.
In addition to her near-perfect conference resume, Ogwumike never lost a home game at Maples Pavilion during her Stanford career. The Cardinal’s home win streak stands at 79 games, dating back over five years to March 19, 2007.
Ogwumike and her fellow seniors were the second Stanford class to go undefeated at home.
This past season, the Cardinal averaged 4,250 fans per home game. That was better attendance than at many of the games for the Stanford men’s team, the 2012 NIT champs.
Nneka has also helped mentor her teammate and younger sister Chiney, who has blossomed into stardom for Stanford.
As a sophomore this past season, Chiney averaged a double-double (15 ppg and 10 rpg) and added 51 assists, 45 blocks and 28 steals.
Chiney was the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the WCBA All America team and to the AP All America second team.
There’s more to come, as a pair of younger Ogwumike sisters, Chisom and Ernima, are still in high school in Texas. Maybe they’ll play for Stanford too. Tara VanDerveer sure hopes so.
Finally, in addition to her Stanford degree, Ogwumike also possesses an off-the-charts basketball IQ, a tireless work ethic and desire to win, and intangible natural leadership qualities. She is the oldest of four sisters, after all.
All of which should make her a fabulous WNBA star and national team member for years to come.
The Los Angeles Sparks are on the clock.