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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Graduation day was special for Connecticut Sun's Ogwumike

A wide-eyed Chiney Ogwumike had yet to take the court as a member of the Connecticut Sun when she was part of a talented group of WNBA newcomers being addressed by Sun head coach Anne Donovan and her coaching staff.

"During rookie orientation I was lucky because Coach Donovan, Coach Steve (Key), Coach Jen (Gillom) were featured speakers of orientation and they told all the rookies to really make an attempt to go to your graduation because you will play many games but you will only have one graduation," Ogwumike said before Tuesday's game against Indiana. When she said that I said 'hey Coach I am going to hold you to it.'"

Donovan was not just engaging in idle chatter. With Stanford's graduation falling on that same day that the Sun hosted the New York Liberty, she gave Ogwumike her full blessing to attend the graduation ceremonies even though it meant she would miss her first game as a pro.

"She is obviously a woman of her word," Ogwumike said. "She thinks that at Stanford that is one thing you can't miss. There will be plenty of games but only one graduation from Stanford. Whole family was there, Nneka (Chiney's sister and star forward with the Los Angeles Sparks) flew in that day and flew out that night so it was special. We had a couple of hours together as a family which was rare."

Ogwumike not only became Stanford's career leader in scoring and rebounding but she was a decorated student-athlete who was recently named the Pac-12 Conference's Woman of the Year making her a candidate for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

Chiney attended her sister's graduation from Stanford two years ago but this time it was a little different for her.

"I have always been a cheerleader for Nneka when she did things first and now she played cheerleader for me which is nice to see because she was a trailblazer in that aspect," Ogwumike said. "It was cool to have my family just as excited for me and it was even more special because Bill and Melinda Gates were there, my family got to see them and also (former U.S. Secretary of State) Condoleeza Rice was there and she was warm and welcoming as always. It was a special moment, I worked so hard at Stanford and it came to fruition. She gave me purpose and a drive within the (international relations) major and it has been a perfect major for me. It has opened my horizons, allowed me to do what I want to do and know who I am so I really credit her a lot for defining my Stanford experience. If that was my last memory as a finishing student I think it was a perfect memory."

The fact that Sun playing not only without its leading scorer but also without injured guard Allison Hightower was able to beat New York 76-72 for its fourth straight win made the day all the more special.

"It was a case of everybody stepping up," Donovan said. "I really like the chemistry that is building on the floor and off the floor. We are starting to get to know how to play with each other and off of each other and that was definitely the case."

Chiney relied on her sister to provide her with scoring updates even as she prepared to graduate.

"Nneka was updating me throughout because I didn't have my phone on me all the time,' Ogwumike said. "We have something special going riht now and we can't take it for granted. I know our strength as a team was our depth so I knew we wouldn't miss a beat no matter who was out there. We played without Kelsey Griffin, we played with Allie (Hightower), playing without me, it doesn't matter who was missing it is about who is on the court at that moment. I think that energy we bring is why we have found that success. I had no worries and after that it was great because I think we are building something really special."


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