Chiney Ogwumike now has family bragging rights.
She accomplished something her older sister never could by becoming a unanimous preseason All-American.
“As old ladies maybe I’ll hold it over her,” said a laughing Ogwumike, who joined sister Nneka as a two-time preseason All-American. “But for now I’m proud to be part of this select group.”
Ogwumike received all 36 votes from a national media panel Tuesday, becoming the ninth player to be a unanimous selection on The Associated Press preseason All-America team. Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins were all unanimous selections last year.
The Stanford forward was joined on the team by Baylor’s Odyssey Sims and Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas. All three seniors were on the preseason squad last season. UConn teammates Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart rounded out the team.
“It means a lot to be on this team,” Ogwumike said. “I’m truly honored to be considered one of the best players in the country. It’s so hard to fulfill expectations.”
It’s going to be hard for Ogwumike to improve on the season she had last year. Already in the school’s top 10 in both scoring and rebounding, the 6-foot-3 star averaged 22.4 points, 12.9 rebounds and shot 58.6 percent from the field last season. She was the only player in the country to rank in the top seven in all three of those categories, and she led the country with 28 double-doubles. She’s worked this offseason to improve her outside game.
“I was passing up perimeter opportunities and the evolution of my game needs to be inside-out,” she said. “I need to be more of a playmaker and facilitator.”
Sims could take a page from Ogwumike, since she will have to do a lot more this year for Baylor with the loss of Griner and four other seniors to graduation.
Sims averaged 12.9 points, 5.8 assists and 2.8 steals last season.
Thomas was selected for the second straight year to the preseason team. The Maryland star had a great year last season averaging 18.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
While Ogwumike, Sims and Thomas are making their second straight appearance on the preseason team, Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis are making their first. They are the seventh set of teammates to be preseason All-Americans, and the duo helped UConn win its eighth national championship in April.
“I think the fact that we had such a great year last year and won the national championship has a lot to do with that,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Sometimes these things just kind of converge and everything happens all at one time. It is unusual, though. I’ve had a lot players and a lot of great teams come through here and for this to be the first time this has happened shows how special it is.”
“I think the fact that we had such a great year last year and won the national championship has a lot to do with that,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “... I’ve had a lot players and a lot of great teams come through here and for this to be the first time this has happened shows how special it is.”