Ogwumike named unanimous choice to preseason All-America team
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," a laughing Ogwumike, who joined sister Nneka as a two-time preseason All-American, said. "But for now I'm proud to be part of this select group."
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Ogwumike received all 36 votes from a national media panel on 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. At 6-foot-3, she 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.
"Odyssey is by far the most experienced player we have. She understands what it takes to win championships, she understands the work ethic," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "She's going to be asked to do more than ever before, both in her play and in the leadership capacity, and I think she's ready for it."
Sims averaged 12.9 points, 5.8 assists and 2.8 steals last season.
"I am so honored to be named a preseason AP All-American for the second time. That's a pretty select group to be included in and I am humbled by the recognition."
Thomas was selected for the second consecutive year to the preseason team. Thomas, from Maryland, had a great year last season averaging 18.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
"It's pretty special to be named a preseason All-American again because there's a lot of really good players out there," Thomas said. "I know we all just work hard and try to be the best we can. It's great to be in that group again."
While Ogwumike, Sims and Thomas are making their second consecutive 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. Connecticut is back at No. 1 in the preseason Top 25 poll.
"I feel like a lot of people on our team could be named All-Americans with Bria [Hartley] and Stef [Dolson] and me and Stewie and how well our other teammates have been playing, with Tuck and Kia and all them," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "It's just an honor to play with such great people all around me."
Along with Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley received votes marking the first time a team has four players earn All-America honors. Tennessee has had three players twice and UConn did it in 2008.
"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."
Ogwumike and Sims were both on the postseason All-America team last spring, with Thomas and Mosqueda-Lewis earning second team honors.