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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Former top pick Ogwumike weighs in on UConn's Breanna Stewart

Chiney Ogwumike has been down the road that Breanna Stewart is about to embark on.

Back in mid December, 2013 the Connecticut Sun won the WNBA Draft lottery and it was a foregone conclusion that the Sun would be selecting the Stanford All-American with the top pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.

In a week and a half the most recent lottery will be conducted at ESPN with the winner almost certainly will make Stewart the fifth UConn product (joining Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles and Maya Moore) to be taken first overall. Yet, Stewart has an entire season left to play at UConn as she attempts to lead the Huskies to an unprecedented fourth consecutive national title.

Whether Seattle, San Antonio, Connecticut or Atlanta gets the No. 1 pick, her WNBA home will be a popular topic in the interview sessions with the media. I caught up with Ogwumike before yesterday's Connecticut season finale and asked her what advice she would give to Stewart.

"I think she should just enjoy the moment," Ogwumike said. "Senior year is the best year because you know all your academic work, just stay in control of that. Just enjoy your coach, your teammates, your friends, your family and let everything be a memory, every game being something you hold in the back of your mind. College is different from the pros, that camaraderie, loyalty you have with each other, it is different when you get to the next level. She knows who she is and just embrace that, there's a lot of pressure and expectation but she has already put herself in position to be great with her life so she should be herself and enjoy the moment."

Ogwumike believes Stewart, who she has gotten to know through USA Basketball circles, is well suited to deal with the extra attention.

"Obviously somebody is handling it for her, (UConn women's basketball coach) Geno (Auriemma), so just enjoy it," Ogwumike said. "If she is enjoying it and having fun, she is going to play amazing. It's going to be amzing, you will have her coming into the WNBA, you will have Diana (Taurasi) back, Skylar (Diggins) back so there will be a lot of talk, it will be some exciting times."
Ogwumike will welcome any of the Sun's draft picks to the team but she admits that bringing in somebody like Stewart would make for a magical environment at Mohegan Sun Arena.

"She is a remarkable talent, she is a chill, cool person and my whole thing, playing with her would be cool because of what it would do for this, this place (Mohegan Sun Arena) would be on fire," Ogwumike said. "At the same time, I know UConn players and Connecticut have a different history so I want what's best for her but at the same time, I am selfish and this place would be on fire. It would be really exciting."

The lottery will be held on Sept. 24. Seattle and San Antonio met last night with the loser of that game earning the best odds of getting the top pick. San Antonio on 59-58 so Seattle has a 44.2 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick, San Antonio (26.6 percent), Connecticut (17.8) and Atlanta (10.4) are the other teams with a shot at landing Stewart.

With the regular season now in the books, I figured I would check in and see where Kiah Stokes' numbers stacked up.

Well, Stokes averaged 10.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocked shots per 40 minutes. She is the first rookie to average at least 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per 40 minutes since LaToya Sanders put up marks of 10.8 rebounds and 4.7 blocked shots per 40 minutes with Phoenix in 2008.

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