Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Nneka Ogwumike is a guiding force for Sparks, but falls short for Sky

Nneka Ogwumike could have focused on his pregame routine. Instead, the 11-year veteran coaches rookie Olivia Nelson-Ododa ahead of Thursday’s game against the Chicago Sky’s Sparks at the Arena.

Candace Parker is waiting in the locker room. Ogwumike coached the rookie on post moves and polished her footwork.

“That’s what made her an All-Star,” interim coach Fred Williams said with a smile.

The Sparks forward was named an All-Star starter on Wednesday for the first time in her 11-year career, earning her seventh All-Star Game honors. But Parker dominated the seven-time All-Star fight, going 82-59 in three-quarter play in her first game in Los Angeles in her first game since leaving Los Angeles in free agency. Had a triple-double with 10 points, 10 assists, and 14 rebounds. 2021. After reaching the milestone on May 22, she became the first player in WNBA history to achieve a triple-double and the first player to do so in the same season.

Ogwumike had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists as the Sparks (6-10) suffered their fourth loss in five games.

About 10 months ago, Ogwumike burst into tears in front of reporters as she recalled her challenges for the 2021 season. Not only did she suffer the first major injury of her career — missing 14 games with a sprained knee — but she was excluded from the Olympic roster for the third straight cycle in a controversial snub.

After the Olympics break, Ogumek said she felt “not worth it or worth it”.

Ogwumike is fully back, proving her worth to the Sparks and the WNBA. She starred in the WNBA Sports Illustrated Swimsuit series this season and led the Sparks with 18 points and 7.7 rebounds in Thursday’s game. Ogwumike is trusted by his teammates to shoot the ball and always find answers.

“The whole building could be on fire, and she kept us calm and told us what to do,” said forward Katie Lou Samuelson, whose sister Bonnie played with Ogumick at Stanford University ball for a year.

Trailing by 17 early in the second quarter, the Sparks again turned to Ogwumike. She scored six of the team’s next eight points.

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike shoots in the game.

(Kamil Krzaczynski/The Associated Press)

But Ogwumike’s steady presence is no match for Chicago (12-5).

Parker had a dizzying 12 rebounds and nine assists in the first half at her former home arena. A left-hand layup with 5.2 seconds left in the third gave Parker her ninth and 10th points, making her the second player in league history to record a triple-double in three quarters.

The 36-year-old’s departure in free agency is a major blow to the team that drafted her in 2008, and it shows the Sparks continue to fall from the league’s elite.

Parker brought her first WNBA title to her hometown of Sky, while Ogwu Mike took on the Sparks franchise on his own.

As president of the Players Association, she has been a maternal figure for all WNBA players.

But the extra responsibilities weighed on Ogwumike, so after last year’s disappointment, Ogwumike did something rare. She prioritizes herself.

“I always tell myself this: ‘You can’t pour wine from an empty glass,'” Ogumic said after Thursday’s shooting practice. “If I help myself first and then help others, it’s better for everyone.”

When she learned that she was going to be an All-Star again, Ogumek thanked her teammates. Ogwumike always puts others first, and she tells her teammates that such an achievement doesn’t happen alone.


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