NCAA BASKETBALL FINAL FOUR
Her first name means â€œsomething that you see and cherish,â€ a fitting description for a player who twice hit game-winning shots on the biggest stage in womenâ€™s basketball, lifting Notre Dame to an NCAA semifinal victory and to the national championship during one memorable weekend.
Over a 48-hour stretch, Arike Ogunbowale became famous, if not quite a household name. No less a hoops eminence than Kobe Bryant noticed what she was doing, first on Friday night, when her game-winner with one second left in overtime knocked U-Conn. out of the tournament. When Ogunbowale tweeted that being noticed by Bryant (a U-Conn. fan who was at the semis) made her life â€œcomplete,â€ he admonished her about â€œfinishing the jobâ€ Sunday.
She did just that, showing a flair for the dramatic in addition to her scoring touch. Her three-pointer with 0.1 seconds left lifted to the Fighting Irish to a 61-58 victory over Mississippi State.
For those who donâ€™t follow womenâ€™s college hoops closely, here are a few things to know about the junior from Milwaukee.
Her first name derives from her fatherâ€™s Nigeria, and sheâ€™s the youngest of Yolanda and Gregory Ogunbowaleâ€™s three kids, according to Notre Dame. Yolanda was a pitcher on the DePaul University softball team and Gregory played soccer and rugby, later serving in the Nigerian Army. Yolanda was Arikeâ€™s grade-school basketball coach.
Her older brother, Oluwadare or Dare, was a running back at the University of Wisconsin and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans in 2017. He has since been an offseason/practice squad acquisition of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins.
Her cousin, Diamond Stone, plays in the NBAâ€™s G League and played for one season at the University of Maryland.
Ogunbowale was a pretty good club soccer player, too, on teams that won four Wisconsin State Cup championships (Lake Country United, 2010-12, and FC Milwaukee, 2009.) But basketball was her focus, and she dominated, averaging better than 27 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals as a senior at Divine Savior Holy Angels, an all-girls Catholic school in Milwaukee. The Dashers went 26-2 and won their first Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association title that season, when she was chosen for the McDonaldâ€™s all-American Game.
â€œI think she will be remembered as the greatest female player in the state of Wisconsin,â€ her high school coach, Jeff Worzella, wrote in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. â€œShe plays the game at such a high level at times. I just sat there on the sidelines and was simply amazed at what she could do on the basketball floor.â€
In addition to Notre Dame, Arikeâ€™s college choices came down to UCLA, Louisville, Ohio State and Wisconsin, but she chose Notre Dame because of her faith.
â€œIâ€™ve been going to religious schools my whole life,â€ the 5-foot-8 guard said in the fall of 2014. â€œI went to a Lutheran grade school and a Catholic high school. I wanted to keep my faith base strong. â€œItâ€™s a great school, Hall of Fame coach [Muffet McGraw], great academics. I wanted to go into business and they have the No. 1 business school. Itâ€™s an all-around great system.â€
She and Stone grew up in the same neighborhood and often played against one another.
â€œWe treated her like one of the boys,â€ Stone said. â€œShe didnâ€™t get any calls. She played hard. Sheâ€™d get right back up. She had that toughness. I think thatâ€™s why sheâ€™s so successful right now.â€
She has often credited that background with her success.
â€œI had to be confident. I couldnâ€™t be scared. They treated me like one of them, so I think I just always had it in me,â€ she told the South Bend Tribune, when asked about playing against her brothers and other boys as a kid.
For her parents, other things matter most.
â€œThe thing people tell us most about her is what a great person she is,â€ Gregory Ogunbowale said in 2014. â€œThatâ€™s more important to us than basketball. Sheâ€™s always gone to religious schools, and she wanted to continue with that flavor. Weâ€™re blessed that she is. We know that sheâ€™s going to be a girl with values, and thatâ€™s more important to us.â€
She averaged 11.4 points as a freshman at Notre Dame, the most for a Fighting Irish reserve in more than a decade. By her sophomore season she was a starter, averaging 15.9 points per game, 10th in the ACC, and scoring a career-high 32 points with nine rebounds in a Sweet 16 win over Ohio State. She became a national star this season, ranking in the top 20 in scoring with nearly 21 points a game and earning first-team all-ACC and second-team all-American honors. Her NCAA tournament star turn came during the best stretch of her career; she scored at least 20 points in five straight games culminating with the national semifinal, then finished with 18 points in the championship game.
â€œSheâ€™s fearless,â€ Coach Muffet McGraw told the South Bend Tribune during the regular season. â€œShe doesnâ€™t mind if she misses a few shots. Sheâ€™s going to keep taking it, which is what you need. You have to have somebody that has that attitude of, â€˜I know I have to score, it doesnâ€™t matter what happened the last possession, this oneâ€™s going in.â€™â€ â€“ Culled from WASHINGTON POST