NCAA BASKETBALL FINAL FOUR
Her first name means “something that you see and cherish,” a fitting description for a player who twice hit game-winning shots on the biggest stage in women’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 “complete,” he admonished her about “finishing the job” 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 don’t follow women’s college hoops closely, here are a few things to know about the junior from Milwaukee.
Her first name derives from her father’s Nigeria, and she’s the youngest of Yolanda and Gregory Ogunbowale’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 Arike’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 NBA’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 McDonald’s all-American Game.
“I think she will be remembered as the greatest female player in the state of Wisconsin,” her high school coach, Jeff Worzella, wrote in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “She 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.”
In addition to Notre Dame, Arike’s college choices came down to UCLA, Louisville, Ohio State and Wisconsin, but she chose Notre Dame because of her faith.
“I’ve been going to religious schools my whole life,” the 5-foot-8 guard said in the fall of 2014. “I went to a Lutheran grade school and a Catholic high school. I wanted to keep my faith base strong. “It’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. It’s an all-around great system.”
She and Stone grew up in the same neighborhood and often played against one another.
“We treated her like one of the boys,” Stone said. “She didn’t get any calls. She played hard. She’d get right back up. She had that toughness. I think that’s why she’s so successful right now.”
She has often credited that background with her success.
“I had to be confident. I couldn’t be scared. They treated me like one of them, so I think I just always had it in me,” 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.
“The thing people tell us most about her is what a great person she is,” Gregory Ogunbowale said in 2014. “That’s more important to us than basketball. She’s always gone to religious schools, and she wanted to continue with that flavor. We’re blessed that she is. We know that she’s going to be a girl with values, and that’s more important to us.”
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.
“She’s fearless,” Coach Muffet McGraw told the South Bend Tribune during the regular season. “She doesn’t mind if she misses a few shots. She’s going to keep taking it, which is what you need. You have to have somebody that has that attitude of, ‘I know I have to score, it doesn’t matter what happened the last possession, this one’s going in.’” – Culled from WASHINGTON POST