Arike Ogunbowale doesn’t simply need subsequent. She needs now.
“It’s dope. It’s wonderful in a league the place there are such a lot of nice gamers—like, gamers you’ve seen rising up and watching whereas in faculty—to be thought of one of many high gamers for the long run, that’s necessary,” says the 24-year-old Dallas Wings guard.
“I will be the long run [of the League] however I’m additionally benefiting from my time proper now and never losing any time,” she continues. “I wish to be one of many high gamers now and sooner or later.”
And she or he’s prepared to do no matter it takes to be the most effective—on and off the basketball courtroom—in every part she does.
Take, for instance, a latest toasty 95 diploma Sunday afternoon in Dallas. Contained in the Singing Hills Recreation Heart is Ogunbowale, a mere two weeks after profitable WNBA All-Star MVP honors and getting back from trip.
Hair pulled again in a protracted ponytail and sporting a white Nike headband, she stands with a basketball within the nook of the big, empty fitness center. She’s there on her off day for a photograph shoot for Purple Bull.
There’s Arike dribbling the ball with each arms. There’s Arike twirling the ball, first on one hand, then on one finger. There’s Arike capturing the ball and displaying off her handles. There’s Arike posing. She’s laughing. She’s smiling, that vast, toothy grin we’ve all grown accustomed to, and chatting with the digital camera crew.
Wearing a white T-shirt, blue shorts, black tights, white Nike socks and orange, black and white Nikes, she walks confidently down the fitness center ground close to a basketball hoop. She chats together with her coach, Melvin Sanders of SandersFit Efficiency Heart in downtown Dallas, earlier than he begins passing her the ball. She effortlessly places up a bucket. Then one other. And one other. She hits 10 straight earlier than she misses.
There’s nobody there however me, a handful of Purple Bull workers, Arike and her coach. However she’s as centered as if she have been in Faculty Park Heart the place the Wings play their residence video games. She’s tending to enterprise, however watching her up shut and on the courtroom alone, you may see how at one she is with the ball, how capturing baskets is second nature. She’s all the time engaged on her craft, all the time making an attempt to get higher, all the time making an attempt to enhance, even taking a photograph shoot with seriousness. And it’s this work ethic, grit and dedication that has propelled her in simply three brief years to turn into one of many unquestioned faces of the WNBA.
You simply knew she can be.
You knew it when she led her Notre Dame workforce to the 2018 Nationwide Championship on a final second shot.
You knew it when she handed fellow Irish alum Skylar Diggins-Smith to turn into the Notre Dame’s all-time main scorer.
You knew it when her title was referred to as at No. 5 general within the 2019 WNBA draft.
You simply knew the 5-8 strolling bucket was going to take the League by storm. And in a method, so did she.
“I’ve quite a lot of confidence in myself. So I knew no matter I dropped at Dallas, I’d assist the workforce for positive. It doesn’t matter what it was, off the courtroom, on the courtroom,” she shares with WSLAM. “I knew I’d assist the workforce nonetheless I may and make a reputation for myself in Dallas.”
And all through the League.
And what a reputation.
She was a unanimous All-Rookie choice and WNBA Rookie of the 12 months runner-up after ending third within the League in scoring (19.1 ppg) and main her workforce in scoring. With a complete of 630 factors (third in League historical past in rookie factors), she tied Maya Moore’s document of 30 or extra factors in 4 straight video games.
For her sophomore 12 months, Ogunbowale—who admires the sport of legends Seimone Augustus, Lisa Leslie, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi—received the WNBA scoring title (22.8 ppg), recording 4 30 level video games in back-to-back years.
This 12 months, a number of video games left within the common season, she is averaging 18.8 ppg and is on tempo to succeed in profession bests in three-point and free-throw capturing. She was additionally named the All-Star MVP in her first All-Star Gajme after dropping 26 factors.
“I wish to be one of many high gamers now and sooner or later.”
– Arike Ogunbowale
However it’s not simply on the courtroom the place Arike is making her title identified. Not too long ago, she joined some large names, together with Kevin Durant, Elena Delle Donne and Kelley O’Hara, as buyers in Simply Ladies’s Sports activities, a rising media platform.
“As you get extra into the League, you need longevity and wish to begin investing in issues,” she says. “What higher solution to begin investing than in ladies’s sports activities? I’m concerned in ladies’s sports activities. It’s what I do. If I’ve daughters, that is what I would like them to do, and I simply wish to encourage younger children.”
“That is actually placing my cash the place my mouth is, elevating ladies and all that they do, so why not spend money on it and have an element in serving to it develop? That was actually necessary to me.”
Ogunbowale, who’s signed with Nike and most lately partnered with Purple Bull, additionally has her hand in uplifting younger folks. She lately labored with the Dick’s Sporting Items Basis to present away clothes and different gear to younger ladies.
“I’ve quite a lot of issues in retailer. No matter I’m doing, I’m undoubtedly making an attempt to make younger ladies and our neighborhood the point of interest. That’s what I’m large on.”
She’s additionally large on basketball, and stepping into the playoffs stays her high precedence; one thing she’s but to expertise after a 10-24 end her rookie 12 months; 8-14 within the shortened 2020 wubble season, and presently 10-13 this season, one recreation out of the playoffs.
“I’m good. I’m locked in and preparing for the second a part of the season,” she solutions with trademark confidence when requested about her present way of thinking.
And she or he must be.
Though there are different gifted veterans on the Wings, together with Olympic Gold medalist Allisha Grey, defensive stalwart Kayla Thornton and Isabelle Harrison, it’s Ogunbowale who’s the face of the franchise and the chief of the workforce. She has been since she was drafted and named place to begin guard within the absence of Diggins-Smith. How difficult has it been for her to step into the function of chief and assist put the Wings in the absolute best place to succeed?
“I wouldn’t say difficult, it’s only a course of, particularly with me being younger myself,” she explains. “I already needed to be extra of a frontrunner even in 12 months one after I was place to begin guard. I’m not even finished with 12 months three and I’m already thought of a frontrunner, and that’s simply who I’m and what I add to this workforce.
“With a view to be a high participant, you must lead as effectively, so I believe I’m rising in that and studying and that’s nonetheless a course of, too. I’m not the most effective chief but,” she admits. “However I’m undoubtedly working at it. And it helps to have teammates and coaches who belief you, belief what you say; consider in you as a frontrunner. That undoubtedly elevates my confidence as effectively.”
Wings teammates Harrsion and Bella Alarie, who’ve performed alongside Ogunbowale for 3 and two years respectively, have seen the expansion and evolution of their teammate and see no limits on her ascension to the highest of the League.
“My favourite factor about Arike is how gifted she is, however nonetheless has a listening ear,” says Harrison. “Even when she bought right here her first 12 months, she was our chief. Arike was the individual we have been going to present the ball to on the finish of the sport so she stepped up lots. That is her third 12 months now, I believe she is simply getting extra snug in her function so far as being vocal, main off the courtroom, encouraging folks and holding herself to a normal defensively. She needs to develop. I don’t know if folks see that about Arike. She needs to develop and she or he needs to be higher.
“So any Arike slander, I don’t hearken to it. I don’t care who it comes from,” Harrison says laughing, but additionally very severely. “That woman needs to be higher. And I really like that about her. She is simply so humble. She is simply placing herself on the subsequent degree. She will be able to solely go up. She is pushing herself to be good.”
Alarie calls Ogunbowale, “a incredible participant, playmaker and intensely assured. And that’s one thing I look as much as her for. She’s not afraid to take these final second pictures that make or break the sport. I actually admire that.”
“The best way she’s grown into herself, she’s finished an incredible job of carrying us alongside together with her,” she continues. “I actually love enjoying together with her. She brings an incredible perspective to the courtroom. She performs exhausting and she or he is just going to get higher.”
One space Ogunbowale is striving to enhance upon is studying defensive schemes different groups are throwing at her as they attempt to make it tougher for the bucket-getter to attain.
“Everybody is aware of I can rating, however each evening it’s a unique protection. The toughest factor is having the ability to alter each recreation to totally different defenses as a result of groups throw various things at me,” she says. “Having the ability to alter and browse the appropriate performs—you realize, if I’m getting trapped, I gotta swing it fast—simply having the ability to stand up on these issues sooner.”
There’s little doubt she’ll enhance defensively and in another method she wishes. Ogunbowale has that sort of will, dedication and focus—a lot of which comes from her household, whom she calls the supply of her inspiration and motivation and with whom she connects with day-after-day. “My assist system is de facto large and undoubtedly retains me going.”
What additionally retains her going is her aggressive nature and her need to take her workforce additional than they’ve ever gone.
“I’m locked in. We’ve bought some necessary video games. We’ve gotta get these wins with a purpose to make this playoff push. I’m actually locked in proper now.”
Go behind the scenes with Diamond, Betnijah and Arike for his or her WSLAM 1 cowl shoot!
Portraits by Raven B. Varona. Observe Ravie B. on Instagram, @ravieb.
Motion images through Getty Photos.