Arike Ogunbowale is about to get a taste of Dallas yeehaw
The Notre Dame star was selected fifth in the 2019 WNBA draft and will join the Dallas Wings
NEW YORK — Yeehaw, folks. Star Notre Dame guard and Dancing with the Stars alumnus Arike Ogunbowale is starting her career as a professional basketball player in Dallas, where she’ll join fellow Notre Dame alumna Skylar Diggins-Smith.
The moment WNBA chief operating officer Christin Hedgpeth announced that the Wings had selected Ogunbowale with the fifth pick in this year’s WNBA draft, the DJ at Nike Headquarters, where the event was being held, switched the music to Lil Nas X’s country hit “Old Town Road.”
“Dallas is a great place and I’m really excited. It’s a great coach there,” Ogunbowale told a thick scrum of reporters. “I’ll bring some excitement, some playmaking abilities, get to the basket, pull-up 3, whatever they need, just passion for the game. To actually be able to play with [Diggins-Smith] at some point, that’s an amazing feeling.”
The past 72 hours of Ogunbowale’s life have been head-spinning. Sunday, she exited Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, in tears. She shot to fame after making clutch game-winning shots in both the semifinals and final of last year’s women’s NCAA basketball tournament, even garnering notice from Kobe Bryant, who gave her two jerseys when she was a guest on Ellen. (One was for her, the other for her dog.)
This year, Ogunbowale, a senior, had an opportunity to repeat as the queen of last-second heroics in the NCAA championship game against Baylor. Notre Dame trailed by two points, 82-80, and with two seconds left in the game, the ball was Ogunbowale’s. She was fouled, then missed her first free throw attempt. Her strategy was to deliberately bounce her second shot off the rim to give her teammates the opportunity for a rebound, but instead the shot went in, and Notre Dame lost 82-81. She finished with 31 points in the last game of her college career.
Two days later, she was shifting her focus to the future. After accepting her new Wings jersey, Ogunbowale paused for a photo op at a desk equipped with a nameplate that read “Boss Lady.” She was kitted out in a sleeveless seafoam green jumpsuit, which only added to the boss lady affect. There was a white notepad on the desk. She ripped off a piece of paper, balled it up and aimed at a nearby trash can.
It went in. Ogunbowale grinned. Even seated behind a desk, she’s creating her own shots.
“It was definitely a quick turnaround,” Ogunbowale said. “What happened at the end of the season, that’s something small out of my four years. I had a great career, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
All five Notre Dame starters were drafted Wednesday night, including three in the first round. In addition to Ogunbowale, junior guard Jackie Young was the No. 1 overall pick and went to the Las Vegas Aces, while forward Brianna Turner was drafted 11th by the Atlanta Dream and then traded to the Phoenix Mercury.
How many game-winners this year? a reporter asked Ogunbowale. “I don’t know yet,” she said. “Hopefully a couple. Hopefully we’re up by 20 at the end of the game.”