Pac-12 Player of the Year Chiney Ogwumike: Four years of greatness

Bob Drebin/stanfordphoto.com

This just in: Chiney Ogwumike is the 2014 Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year in women’s hoops. In other news, the sky is blue and grass is green. Although the official announcement came Tuesday, there hasn’t been a doubt in anyone’s mind since November which player would get the conference’s top honor.

[Related: 2013-14 Pac-12 women's basketball honors released]

If Dylan from Chappelle’s Show were a women’s basketball fan, his five favorite Pac-12 players would be Chiney, Chiney, Chiney, Chiney and Chiney. The league leader in scoring and field goal percentage and the No. 2 woman in rebounds and blocks, Ogwumike did a whole lot o’ good for Tara’s Team in 2013-14. 

In fact, she's been a force since the moment she arrived on the Farm.

Freshman year

Throughout her career Ogwumike has been a model of consistency, and consistent improvement. Once a freshman with great athleticism, a high motor and intense passion for the game, she is now a senior with all those attributes plus a good face-up game, effective mid-range jump shot and improved basketball IQ. She has seemingly added something new to her game every year, and as a result, her scoring average, assists, blocks and field goal percentage have all improved each season she has been on The Farm.

“Chiney's development is what makes her special,” Pac-12 Networks analyst and former Stanford women’s hooper Ros Gold-Onwude says of Ogwumike. “She started as a raw player who was best around the rim for rebounds and layups occurring off of the fast break or an offensive rebound… Now Chiney can shoot layups on either side, thus allowing Stanford's offense to run on either side of the court. She's added sweeping footwork to her posting skill set. She's added finesse to her game. She can face up and put the ball on the floor, attacking the rim.”

Sophomore year

Though Ogwumike averaged a double-double as a sophomore, the onus would be on her to produce even more with her older sister Nneka off to the WNBA for her junior campaign in 2012-13. While the Cardinal did not reach their sixth consecutive Final Four, the younger Ogwumike did lead her team to a 33-win season, a share of the Conference regular season crown, the Conference tournament championship and a trip to the Sweet 16.

‘Twas a season filled with big wins and big-time performances from Ogwumike, the eventual consensus All-American and Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year. When Stanford met up with Brittney Griner and the seemingly-indestructible Baylor Lady Bears, Ogwumike stood toe-to-toe with the future No. 1 pick of the WNBA Draft and led her team to a 71-69 victory on the heels of game-winning layup with 22 seconds left to snap the Bears’ 42-game winning streak. When the Cardinal journeyed to Knoxville, a place where it hadn’t won since 1996, Ogwumike posted 21 tallies and 19 pull-downs to handle the Tennessee Lady Vols by double digits.

At least part of the reason she and her team were able to have so much success was due to Ogwumike’s ability to stretch the defense much more than in year’s past with the addition of a mid-range jumper. According to statistical data compiled by Synergy Sports, a basketball analytics service, Ogwumike made 12 jump shots her first two years on The Farm combined and was 5-28 (18 percent) on jump shots as a sophomore. During her junior campaign, Ogwumike connected on 27 jump shots and hit 44 percent of such attempts, including a cool 54 percent on jumpers inside of 17 feet.

“I asked Chiney what advice would she give to a younger self and she said, ‘Go outside your comfort zone,’” Gold-Onwude said. “She admits she didn't work on her midrange jumper until defenses forced her to… The mid-range jumper has opened up her game to new levels. She's worked on it for two off-seasons and it has been consistent this year.”

Junior year

Fast-forward to 2013-14, and Ogwumike has extended her range even more, ringing true on 37 percent of her long-range two-point jumpers (defined as being taken from 17 feet out to the three-point line by Synergy Sports), up from 30 percent on 12 fewer attempts as a junior.

Senior year

All in all, this year has been nothing short of spectacular for Ogwumike. A campaign in which she has amassed 13 30-point games and 22 double-doubles, Ogwumike somehow saved her best for her last, notching a career-high 37 points in a 20-point victory on Senior Night against Washington State.

But what makes the queen of Nerd Nation so likeable goes beyond mere statistics.

“Chiney is the type of leader that inspires her teammates to play hard ‘for Chiney,’” Gold-Onwude said. “They trust her, they follow her, they listen to her, they learn from her and they don't want to let her down.”

Off the court, she’ll do an internship in Nigeria and build a basketball court there in her “spare time.” On The Farm, she’ll talk to complete strangers and promise to stay in touch over social media.

“She might be the most ambitious person I know,” Gold-Onwude said. “What's most impressive about Chiney is that she executes her ambition. Her follow through is what separates her.”

And of course, she knows how to have fun. From the team’s music videos she helps produce with the Cardinal Channel crew to spitting hot fire with our Ryan McGrady on Statisfaction, she always keeps people entertained.

“Even with a demanding schedule for elite level academics and basketball, Chiney manages to find the time and drive to do more,” Gold-Onwude said. “Chiney moves with a purpose, and all the while with a cool and poise about her that is well beyond her years.”

 

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