It may come as a shock to some that Arike Ogunbowale went fifth overall to Dallas in the 2019 WNBA Draft, and not earlier.
The 2020 WNBA scoring champion and 2021 WNBA All-Star MVP has since earned the reputation as one of the most impactful players in the league.
“I mean, me being me like in my head, I know what I am going to do in the league, so that’s their loss,” Ogunbowale remembers thinking on draft night, recounting the moment to Kelley O’Hara on the latest episode of The Players’ Pod.
“I was with my parents, one of my brothers, and we were just at the table waiting to get called. I really didn’t know what number I was going to get called, so it was a surprise. The first time I talked to Dallas was the night before the draft,” Ogunbowale says. “I really thought I was going to Minnesota at six, to be honest.”
The 25-year-old has no qualms about how the draft shook out, telling O’Hara that everything turned out as it was supposed to.
“I’m always about everything happens for a reason, so I wasn’t meant to go to those places,” she says. “And I love Dallas now.”
Ogunbowale wasted no time showing why she was a top draft pick, leading the Wings with 19.1 points and 3.2 assists per game in 2019. She earned a place on the WNBA All-Rookie Team with her performance.
“I wanted to dominate,” Ogunbowale says. “After the All-Star break, something just clicked, and I was just going crazy.”
Now entering her fourth WNBA season, the guard signed a three-year, supermax contract extension with Dallas in February.
When asked who her all-time WNBA starting five would be, Ogunbowale rattle doff a number of greats, most of whom are still playing: “(Sylvia Fowles) at the five, I love her. Diana (Taurasi) at the two, Maya (Moore) at the three, Sue (Bird) at the one and Candace (Parker) at the four,” she says.
Ogunbowale cited Natasha Howard as the most underrated player in the league.
“She won championships with Seattle. She doesn’t get talked about enough, but I don’t think they could’ve won without her because she’s amazing, really,” Ogunbowale says.
She didn’t skip a beat when asked which player she would recruit, saying she wants to play with Seattle Storm forward and three-time WNBA All-Star Breanna Stewart.
As for the WNBA’s best trash talker, Ogunbowale agrees with many that Diana Taurasi holds that title. “(She) really doesn’t care what she says to anybody,” Ogunbowale says.
She also likes playing against Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams. “That’s my dog, but she’s always chatting,” Ogunbowale says. “I don’t trash talk, but any time I play her, I am talking because she’s just talking. So I’ve got to talk, too.”
For more on Ogunbowale’s WNBA insights, listen to her full conversation with Kelley O’Hara on The Players’ Pod.