USA Basketball Leads to Friendships, Gold Medals for Chiney Ogwumike
Dec. 12, 2012
The first thing you might notice when you meet Chiney Ogwumike is how outgoing and friendly she is, it’s no surprise that when she travels with USA Basketball Ogwumike makes friends with ease en route to winning gold medals.
“Chiney’s a really good person,” said Golden State rookie Draymond Green, who met Ogwumike while playing in the 2011 World University Games. “She’s really friendly, really nice to everybody. She never has a bad word to say. Then, you watch her on the basketball court and she’s all hustle. How can you not like a person like that?”
Determined to be as friendly off the court as she is fierce on it, Stanford’s 6-3 junior already has three gold medals under her belt in international competitions, including the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship gold medal that she earned last summer in Athens, Greece.
Watching Ogwumike play up close for the first time in Athens was 2012 USA 3x3 Men’s World Championship Team member and former Purdue University track and field All-American Adetayo ‘Tayo’ Adesanya.
“Chiney is a lively and active player on and off the court,” wrote Adesanya in an email. “From my experience when watching her, she gets the ball down low and is very strong and accurate on the block with her post moves. Adding her underrated ability to shoot the mid-range makes her a very dangerous threat on the collegiate and professional level.
“I don't think there are very many people that don't see how joyful and cheery she is naturally,” he added. “She happens to jell with just about any kind of crowd.”
Ogwumike, who first tried out for the 2008 USA Basketball U18 National Team as a 16-year-old, returned two years later and made the 2010 USA U18 National Team. She averaged team-highs of 13.2 points and 7.4 rebounds a game to lead the U.S. to the FIBA Americas U18 Championship gold medal.
The following summer Ogwumike was the second-youngest member of the 2011 USA World University Games Team, but nevertheless started all six games and averaged 9.5 ppg. as the U.S. went undefeated en route to gold.
While the U18 tournament featured eight women’s teams from FIBA Americas, the World University Games is a multi-sport event – an Olympiad-type of event for college athletes – and thus the USA Basketball men’s and women’s teams trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and traveled to Shenzhen, China, as a team, where they lived in a village with athletes competing in numerous sports from 150 nations.
One of the benefits to competing for USA Basketball is being able to travel the world and make friends with athletes who one might never get to know otherwise.
“(China) was so much fun,” said Ogwumike. “But again, it’s all about the people you meet through the game. One of my closest friends from that trip that I would never expect is Draymond Green, because as you know we traveled with the men’s team. So as the men got drafted this past year as Nneka’s (Ogwumike) class did, I still keep in contact with Trevor Mbakwe, John Jenkins, a lot of those guys, but especially Draymond. We became really great friends from that whole China experience. And you know what? He got drafted to the Warriors. And guess what? The other day I was at the Warriors game.”
“We ran into each other and started talking in Colorado Springs (during training camp),” said Green. “We’d take a walk, me, Chiney, Odyssey (Sims), a few other guys, and we just started talking. We kept talking and kept talking. You kind of get a feel for when you meet really good people.
“It was funny,” added Green. “When I got drafted to Golden State she was one of the most excited people. She was like, ‘oh! You’re coming to the Bay Area!’ She was always talking about how great the Bay is. So, that’s really how it all started. Just a lot of random conversations and like I said, you know when you meet a good person.”
Six Degrees of Separation
During her three stints with USA Basketball, Chiney Ogwumike has had some impressive and talented teammates from around the country. Below is a listing of those atheletes and where they played and/or where they are currently playing basketball.
|Elena Delle Donne||2011 WUG||Delaware|
|Diamond DeShields||2010 U18||Norcross H.S. (GA) '13 / signed with UNC|
|Skylar Diggins||2012 3X3, 2011 WUG||Notre Dame|
|Stefanie Dolson||2010 U18||Connecticut|
|Jacki Gemelos||2011 WUG||USC (graduated, not currently competing)|
|Reshanda Gray||2010 U18||Cal|
|Keisha Hampton||2011 WUG||DePaul (graduated, not currently competing)|
|Cassie Harberts||2010 U18||USC|
|Bria Hartley||2012 3X3, 2010 U18||Connecticut|
|Malina Howard||2010 U18||Maryland|
|Glory Johnson||2011 WUG||Tulsa Shock / BC Chevekata (Russia, EuroCup) / Tennessee|
|Alexis Jones||2010 U18||Duke|
|Lynetta Kizer||2011 WUG||Phoenix Mercury / KB Stars (Korea) Maryland|
|Ally Malott||2010 U18||Dayton|
|Kayla McBride||2010 U18||Notre Dame|
|Natalie Novosel||2011 WUG||Washington Mystics / Targoviste (Romania)Notre Dame|
|Nnemkadi Ogwumike||2011 WUG||LA Sparks / CCC Polkowice (Poland, EuroLeague) / Stanford|
|Cassie Peoples||2010 U18||Florida (transfer)|
|Devereaux Peters||2011 WUG||Minnesota Lynx / Le Mura Lucca (Italy) Notre Dame|
|Theresa Plaisance||2010 U18||LSU|
|Odyssey Sims||2011 WUG||Baylor|
|Shekinna Stricklen||2011 WUG||Seattle / Antakaya (Turkey) / Tennessee|
|Ann Strother||2012 3X3||Connecticut ('06)|
Not knowing much about the 3x3 game, which FIBA hopes will be on the slate of Olympic disciplines in 2016, Ogwumike, Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, Connecticut’s Bria Hartley and Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., in July to compete in the 2012 USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournament. Despite just learning how to get into the flow of 3x3, the foursome downed all comers en route to the gold medal and was named to the 2012 USA Basketball 3x3 World Championship Team. (Due to illness, Thomas was replaced by former USA Basketball and Connecticut standout Ann Strother, who also competed in the USA 3x3 National Tournament.)
Ogwumike and her teammates, along with the USA 3x3 Men’s World Championship Team, headed to Athens with high hopes of bringing home the gold medal. Along the way she met more people, such as the Czech Republic’s Lukas Kraus and Omotayo ‘Tayo” Ogedengbe from England, and she continues to keep up with them through Facebook and Twitter.
“On Twitter it’s easy, we follow each other,” she said. “But, on Facebook is where we really keep up with each other. A lot of them are still on the 3x3 circuit and they’re so excited for us, because they know who we are within the game of women’s basketball. So, I’ve gotten so many ‘good lucks’ and ‘great jobs’ from so many people like from my friend Tayo from England, Lukas from the Czech Republic, all these different players. It’s been really cool to keep up with so many people.
“I’m so thankful for these kinds of friendships. One thing about USA Basketball is that it gives you so many opportunities to meet so many different people. That’s where you see how the game of basketball can really unite people.”
In addition to her off-court friendships, Ogwumike learned a great deal about her game at the 3x3 World Championship. 3x3 is vastly different from the traditional game with which most of us are familiar. It’s played on a half court with a 10-minute running clock, only three players can be on the court at one time and no coaches are allowed on the bench. Additionally, the first team to 21 points, or whoever is ahead at the end of regulation, wins the game. That said, a lot of the skills can be translated to a full-court game.
“I think the one-on-one skills have really helped me, because I’m playing a wide variety of types of players,” she said. “They’re either athletic or have a stronger build or tall, so being able to play against a variety of players has helped. The game was very physical overseas. Finishing at the rim is something I won’t take for granted from that trip and being able to be physical within the confines of the game. I think that’s one that’s one of the most salient things I took from that experience.
“And then also, the whole thing about having a fewer number of players. We have a great point guard on our team in Amber Orrange, and we run the pick and roll with her, it’s our offense. I love playing two-on-two with her, and I think that 3x3 helped me love the whole idea of two-on-two now.”
Overall Ogwumike is appreciative of everything that USA Basketball has to offer.
“Playing for different coaches and meeting different mentors of the game has really helped me become a student of the game,” she said. “You get to learn what works for them. For example, coach (Bill) Fennelly was a big advocate of the pick and roll and getting open shots for the shooters. On the other hand, coach (Jen) Rizzotti was all about the defense working the offense, being aggressive, taking it to the rim. If you can beat your player, then beat your player.”
With an open mind willing to soak up knowledge and the tenacity to fight for every rebound, Ogwumike is likely to be torching the nets in a USA Basketball again in the future. Yes, she’ll be out there playing to bring home a gold medal, but at the end of the day Ogwumike will be looking forward to new experiences off the court.
“You meet people, whether it was the World University Games or 3x3, you meet people that have preconceptions about Americans or about how you live your life. Then you realize, ‘hey, we’re pretty similar and we can be friends.’ You see how things change just from a matter of playing a game or sharing a joke or something silly that happens in the midst of a play. So yes, I’m definitely so thankful about being able to play for USA Basketball. I’m thankful to have these experiences to be able to meet different types of people, see how the game has affected their lives, and to become friends with them.”
In her three stints playing for the red, white and blue, Chiney Ogwumike has taken full advantage of everything that USA Basketball is about: competitiveness, winning gold medals, making friends and being a great ambassador for your country both on and off the court.