Dishin & Swishin Q&A looks at the Class of 2014: Chiney Ogwumike leads Stanford into the postseason

Chiney Ogwumike vs Michigan (via Bob Drebi/ISIPhoto)
Chiney Ogwumike vs. Michigan (via Bob Drebi/ISIPhoto)

It is our pleasure to introduce a new feature on Hoopfeed. As we head toward conference tournaments, the NCAA tournament and the WNBA draft, Dishin & Swishin podcast host David Siegel is taking time to chat with some of the top seniors in this year’s college class. These are the leaders of their teams, the focus of their opponent’s attention and they have the eyes of WNBA coaches on them. By draft day, you should have information on most of the people your favorite team may choose!

Size, speed, intelligence, athleticism. All of these and more can be used to describe Stanford senior Chiney Ogwumike. The leader of “Nerd City, 2014 edition” has the Cardinal sitting at 29-2, champions of the regular season Pac 12 and a likely number one seed in the NCAA tournament.

Since an eye-opening upset at Washington, Stanford has won six straight, outscoring their opponents 431-322. Ogwumike averaged over 26 points per game during that stretch.

A young team, the Cardinal has relied heavily on Ogwumike on both ends of the floor, and she has not let them down. She has been leading scorer in 29 of the team’s 31 games, leading rebounder in 22 of them. Her ability to shoulder the load has allowed the rest of the team to grow and develop into a cohesive unit headed into the postseason.

What Does the WNBA think of Ogwumike? An insider says:
Ogwumike is easily one of the most athletic players to come into our league. She has size and great hands; and her ability to play both the 4 and the 5 is key. The development of a face up game needs to continue, but the rebound and defensive potential are fantastic. She is tough and competitive, which you would expect from someone whose sister is Nneka.

DNS: Nerd city is rolling again! Here we sit at the end of the regular season, conference championship firmly in grasp, just another year at Stanford.

CO: I like to think of it like that! I look up at the banners in Maples Pavilion and we don’t have a year missing. That was one of my goals to be conference champs four years in a row, and last year we shared it with Cal and I really didn’t want that this year. We are just really fortunate that we were able to get it; we put in a lot of work but it’s a really exciting point in the year for us.

DNS: Let’s talk about your teammates and the team for a second. The team has evolved from the beginning of the year until the end of the year tremendously. Where do you see the biggest difference in the team’s improvement?

CO: I think our biggest difference is our toughness. For some reason I think this Stanford team, out of all the Stanford teams I played on, we’ve sort of had to rely on grit to get us to win. We’ve had to be tough defensively, to be able to finish with contact on offense of late. You know, before we were “system players,” we run the triangle and the system has done so much for us, but I guess the evolution of basketball nowadays is more so individual skill is highlighted. Coach Tara is allowing us to play within her system, but also to make basketball plays and just read the defense. I think that has really helped us, so just being tough, resilient, gritty, and using that to propel us to win. That is what our team specializes in; that I hope we will continue to.

DNS: Looking at the stats for the year; never mind Lebron James and Kevin Durant, you have led this team in scoring in every game except two this season. I know you are about the W’s but do you realize how much of an offensive load you carry on this team?

CO: I don’t think I want to think about it because that would put pressure on myself (laughing). For me I do what I have to do for us to get a win, that’s all I care about. My teammates trust me so much to always be looking for me, and they are so unselfish, to the point where I have to say, “you know you guys step up and take your shot, don’t force the ball to me all the time.” So I think it’s just that I’ve been fortunate to play with such unselfish teammates that look for me and find the little tiny crevices to get me the ball, and then I just try to reward them. Okay I’m going to try to give you an assist by finishing as much as I can. So yes it’s a lot of offensive load but it’s just an honor to to be treated like that by my teammates. I have the best teammates! I mean Michaela Ruef is one of the best post passers. I believe she is the best post passer in the country. To play with someone, we have great guards who make great post entries as well. I’ve been spoiled basically.

DNS: You have also evolved as a player over your career. You came in and the athleticism and rebounding was just sort of a given with the last name Ogwumike, but you have really developed more facets of your game. What do you consider the biggest improvement and what are you most proud of on the court for what you’ve done during your four years at Stanford?

CO: I’ve done the standard working on your perimeter shot, your ball handling, and my passing abilities, but honestly I think the I think the thing I’m most proud of myself is just working on my strength, working on my footwork, working on my efficiency just so I could finish better for my teammates because I felt like we needed that. Especially since as you know Jeanette (Pohlen), Kayla (Pedersen) and Nneka graduated, so we needed someone to step up inside and be a force. So just being tough I feel like there are so many talented people in women’s basketball. There’s Kayla McBride, there is Alyssa Thomas, Bria Hartley, Breanna Stewart. So many tough people, but I pride myself on being tough, being a competitor. Sometimes it’s not about skill, it’s about your will. So I just always try to have the mindset going into games that I feel pretty confident.

DNS: I saw a little sneak peek on twitter that there may be a sequel to “Nerd City?” Are you working on a third music video

CO: Oh it’s done; 90 percent of it is finished. We’re definitely coming out with a new video. I think people at Stanford, at the University asked. They asked, “Chiney, what is your legacy?” My legacy is obviously a lot of people know me as the basketball player, but off the court, I love school, I love being a part of the Stanford community, with my professors, with the faculty and staff, students and I feel like it’s sort of like something fun away from the court for us to show what it was all about. For me to play hard on the court, work hard in the classroom, but also have a great time being at Stanford University; so I guess this will be sort of like a senior gift. Hopefully for people to enjoy it, it can be really neat

DNS: I think you need to get a guest shot from (outspoken Seattle Seahawks and Stanford alum) Richard Sherman in there.

CO: You know, I’m not going to say we didn’t do that, and I’m not going to say we did (laughing).

DNS: it is coming toward the end though, and we are headed towards another NCAA tournament. If I can ask you to look past that, which I know you don’t like to do. There is a legitimate shot of you being the second Ogwumike to be the number one draft choice in the WNBA draft. How exciting is it going to be on draft day, and will Nneka be able to come with you to Connecticut for the draft this year?

CO: Honestly, you know, it’s funny eleven years ago, we were kids growing up and we did not know where life would take us. We were sort of enclosed and going to private school, making sure we do our homework. We were sheltered kids, and we grew, then we were thrust into this world of basketball. It’s not like we watched it and really wanted it at first. Now after playing we fell in love with the game. We fell in love with everything, every facet of it; coaching, learning, and all that stuff. I don’t think as kids Nneka and I, we never envisioned ourselves to eventually be number one draft picks. So I think that makes this experience so much more humbling but also exciting. It seems like fate and destiny. So no matter what happens whether it’s one or 21, wherever my draft is it’s going to be a really special moment for Nneka and I because we feel like we’ve worked hard academically and athletically, and it’s like you’re ending one sad chapter, not that it is sad, it is sad to end the chapter at Stanford. But it’s really exciting to open a new chapter because I can’t wait to experience this. So it’s bittersweet now, it will be a huge honor and honestly I just want to play. I love playing I’d like to play as long as I can. Whatever let’s me do that I’ll be happy.

DNS: You spent a lot of time this summer working and doing things to help people, so I’m sure that something that will be advanced with you was a professional.

CO: Oh definitely! I went to Nigeria, and I’ve done a whole bunch of charity work. The charity I did, “Access to Success” in Nigeria was just so much fun. You think about a basketball camp in the U.S. and you think it’s got to be completely different. Sports is like the same language in any country; playing basketball is the same language, so you do the same things and kids are similarly eager to learn how to be better players. Being able to witness this, that they are in love with it just as much as kids in the U.S. Because sometimes you know we have the best league in the WNBA and NBA and all that stuff, but people are just as hungry to do the same things, they have this universal goal with great stories. People still tweet me to this day “Chiney don’t forget about me, tell me if you are coming back here” and stuff like that, so that means the world to me. People ask me about what you want to do in the future, I’m like I have absolutely no clue, but I was on Twitter and I saw how Pau Gasol is a UNICEF ambassador through sport, and I thought that sounds so cool. So maybe I’ll pursue that.

DNS: Well, that sounds fantastic. You’ve always been one of my favorite student-athletes to talk to, and I’m looking forward to continue covering your exploits in the WNBA, but not until you’re done with this year. Good luck the rest that of the way in the Pac-12 tournament, the NCAA tournament, and I have this feeling you may be racking up some hardware at the end of the year.

CO: Oh I hope so, let me knock on some wood! We want to keep on winning, we do play at Maples (in the NCAA regionals), so it would be a really special way to get to the Final Four, so that’s a really special goal. Thank you so much it’s always a pleasure.

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