Chiney Ogwumike needs no introduction to SLAM readers.
I wrote a story on the Stanford-bound prep star of Cy-Fair HS that was Originally published in SLAM 131.
I asked her to write a guest blog to show SLAM faithful how a basketball phenom navigates the b-ball award tour and handles being certified as the next big thing. Here’s her account:
by Chiney Ogwumike / @ChineyO13
I love March Madness! This has definitely been the most memorable year for me on many specters. I have been blessed and privileged to have partaken in a once-in-a-lifetime adventure this past month.
It all started March 2 when our high school team won our second state championship in the past three years. There is no better feeling than knowing you gave all you had for your community, friends, family, teachers, and fellow students, ending your senior year with a win that will last forever in history.
The celebration lasted a couple of days and before I knew it on March 21. I turned 18 years old. My mom and other sisters planned a surprise birthday party for me, the first one ever! I was so shocked and happy to share the day with great company. But the surprises didn’t end there… Tuesday, March 23, I headed to Atlanta to graciously receive one of the most prestigious awards basketball has to offer: the Naismith Award for High School Girl’s Player of the Year. The ceremony was beyond impressive and I even met one of my newest best friends, Jared Sullinger. Jared and his father James “Satch” Sullinger were honored as the respective High School Boys Player of the Year and High School Boys Coach of the Year. Angel McCoughtry was also an esteemed guest there and directed advice to all the rising basketball players. She reiterated that your “degree comes first, then you can hit the court.” Great advice! The trip was short yet magical.
Two days later the surprise came. I should have caught the hint when my little sisters were unusually giddy. It was a typical school day that happened to end with a celebratory “pep rally.” After receiving many random delays, I made it to the auditorium. The whole pep rally was really a set up to present me with the Gatorade National Girl’s Basketball Player of the Year Award. I never expected to receive the award, even after Nneka, my sister won it in 2008. To top it off, Nneka and the entire Stanford women’s basketball team presented me the trophy in front of my school via Skype. Man technology these days is crazy! You see the festivities on Facebook.
All of the accumulated excitement of the past week continued to build as I headed to the Columbus, Ohio where I was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American games. That was probably the most fun and memorable week ever! I’ll hit the high points.
All-Americans: When I was at camp in Oregon this past summer, Nike trainer Ganon Baker said our Class of 2010 was probably the most enjoyable class he has had yet. We all get along, are competitive, and have a strong will to work while having fun. It was never more evident at McDonald’s. We experienced so many things together, from high competition to charity, and are forevermore a family of friends. In this unique way we are bonded for life. When many people read about the All-Americans you tend to hear the sports news such as stats, wins, and commitments. You don’t hear Odyssey Sims can liven up any conversation. Ray McCallum loves apple dippers. Maggie Lucas is a beast at RockBand. Tobias Harris has got the freshest rap flows. Brandon Knight and Corey Joseph put on a front of being mellow and chill but BKnight has the world’s greatest smile and Corey is so intense about his air hockey (especially against unbeatable Bria Hartley.) We are a bunch of kids that love our sport and I know we have bright futures on and off the court.
Ronald McDonald House: Here’s a story that should tell all. There was a cute little boy there named Leonardo, moved recently from Italy, who was full of energy, life, and laughter. He ran around, got Fab Melo (commit to Syracuse) to pick him up and let him dunk the ball, and eventually started chasing the boys, hitting them in their (with all due respect) “soft spots.” You would expect any guy to hide from that situation but Jared Sullinger summed it up saying, “Of course it hurt but I’ll take that hit any day just to make him smile.” Hoops and a heart!
McDonald’s JamFest: 3-Point Contest: Maggie Lucas shot like a pro. Corey Joseph showed a piece of his silky smooth repertoire behind the arc. Skills Challenge: Kendall Marshall probably had the most impressive run early conquering every obstacle. Slam Dunk Contest: Ray McCallum stole the show with his inconceivable hops and circus-like acrobatics. But Josh Selby won the crown doing things SportsCenter worthy. And yes, the ladies danced with Cupid from hit song “Cupid’s Shuffle.” Evan Turner and Sammy Prahalis also graced our company.
Awards Banquet: We all got spiffed up and enjoyed a night hosted by Emmitt Smith where we thanked all of the sponsors that made this event one of the most desired event for any high school athlete in the country. Later Harrison Barnes and I were honored with the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year Award. Harrison Barnes as a person is just like his dunks: classy, humble, and awe-inspiring.
The Game (Girls): We reppin’ the Lone Star State of Texas and the WEST SIDE! I am so proud of Odyssey Sims, Tiffany Moore, Karla Gilbert, and Meighan Simmons for showing why “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” But nevertheless we did it as a team, everyone counted. Despite a zillion turnovers it was an upbeat and exciting game.
The Game (Boys): The scary thing is every boy had an amazing highlight. But I think what stood out in the end to me was… 1) Jared Sullinger: hospital in the morning to MVP of the East by night, playing in his hometown at his future university, 2) Harrison Barnes: MVP of West, flawless and dominating performance, and 3) Brandon Knight: did the little things that mattered to his team, until he hit the buzzer three that gave the dub to the West!
With all said and done in Columbus, some of us we headed back to our Lone Star for the WBCA All-American game. To rap up the travel and trips was never a more perfect ending or dare I say beginning. I was lucky to play on the Final Four floor right before my sister did in the championship series. It was an amazing experience, to have someone so dear to me work so hard and start living her dream. I cannot plan a better finish to the journey.
I am so thankful to all these organizations for providing opportunities to promote women’s basketball and inspiring everyone to achieve greatness. All of our open hearts and minds have created a fraternity of basketball players who are working together to compete, succeed, and positively influence our peers, changing the world.
It has been an honor being your correspondent and if you wish you can continue to follow me at twitter.com/ChineyO13.