Arike Ogunbowale Looks Back on Her College Career and Gives Advice to the Incoming WNBA Rookies

As players around the WNBA get ready for the season to begin on Friday, All-Star guard and Notre Dame legend Arike Ogunbowale made an appearance on Just Women’s Sports‘ “The Players’ Pod” to chop it up about her college career, how to be successful in the W, her contract extension and more.

Ogunbowale’s resume speak for itself, and throughout her career, she’s continued to be the very definition of clutch. As a junior at Notre Dame, she dropped back-to-back buzzer-beater game-winners in the Final Four—the first to beat UConn and enter the title game and the second to beat Mississippi State to win the 2018 NCAA women’s basketball national title.

The very next season, Ogunbowale and the Fighting Irish were on the verge of repeating, but the 5-8 guard missed 1 of 2 free throws in the closing seconds of the national title game. Notre Dame ended up losing to Baylor by just one point, despite a 31 point-performance from Ogunbowale.

“No college player has had to go through that,” she told JWS’ Kelley O’Hara. “You’re at the top high the year before then literally the bottom, in the championship, lost. That just shows you can never get too high to low; things happen every day, at the end of the day, it’s basketball. Obviously, it hurt a lot, but I knew the future I was going to have. It was definitely tough. I still think about it a little bit; I could really maybe have two championships, but everything happens for a reason. But that was definitely a tough one to go through.”

That spring, the WSLAM 1 cover co-star reached the pinnacle of women’s basketball and was drafted fifth overall in the 2019 draft by the Dallas Wings. She averaged 19.1 points in her first season and was named to the All-Rookie team.

Ogunbowale had some advice for this year’s incoming WNBA Draft class: it’s all about the work you put in.

“It’s really work ethic, you gotta be able to get in the gym, and a lot of it is mental. Especially rookie year, everybody can play, especially in the WNBA. It’s only 144 spots [on] 12 teams, so everybody was a star at their college like everybody is good, everybody was maybe an All-American,  at least all-conference in their college period. So that’s really not even the issue; it’s learning the game like a lot of that stuff is mental—the best players know the ins and outs of the game. Everybody in the WNBA runs the same plays essentially, you just gotta learn stuff, you gotta learn players; I had to watch a lot of film and just try to see different things that I didn’t know cause the women in the WNBA are a lot smarter than college, so there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know I had to learn, definitely the mental part. Watching more film, basketball IQ, and taking care of your body. I barely stretched in college; I remember our first (WNBA) practices and stuff. I’m like, ‘What’s taking them so long to warm up? I’m already ready to go.’ And then after last year, ‘I’m like shi*t my body, I need to get massages, I need to do all of this.’”

Ogunbowale, who has racked up two All-WNBA selections, collected a scoring title in 2020, and an All-Star game MVP distinction, signed a multi-year extension with Dallas until 2025. Entering Year 4, Ogunbowale says she’s been focused on on preparing her body for the WNBA grind.

“I’ve been getting some HIIT mobility stuff, a lot more stretching and lifting too. Last year, overseas season, I didn’t really lock into working for the WNBA season until February, but I started right away in November. It wasn’t anything crazy. I just wanted to make sure my body was okay, so by the time I got here, I didn’t have to stress about getting back in shape and doing this. I just tried to focus a lot more on that in October, November, so now I just feel really good.”

The Dallas Wings kick off the 2022 campaign with a home-opener against the Atlanta Dream.