OK, who’s the best Ogwumike? Part 1: The college years

An Ogwumike showdown

It’s safe to say that the Ogwumikes are one of basketball’s royal families. With two of the four sisters being WNBA All-Stars and all four playing Division I basketball for top-25 teams, their combined resume checks off nearly every possible achievement in the sport.

Earlier this year, I covered another one of basketball’s standout families, the Mabreys. I compared the college statistics of siblings Roy, Michaela, Marina, and Dara to inform the debate over which sibling is the best player.

Today, I’m doing the same with the four Ogwumikes: Nneka, Chiney, Olivia, and Erica. Nneka and Chiney are Stanford graduates and WNBA stars; Nneka has played seven seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, and Chiney has played three seasons with the Connecticut Sun (missing two due to injury). Last month, they became teammates at the professional level when Chiney was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks. Younger sisters Olivia and Erica have also played together in college, starting at Pepperdine and then transferring to Rice.

Part 1 of this two-part series looks at each sister’s statistics from her fourth year in college – Nneka and Chiney’s senior seasons and Erica’s redshirt junior season. The exception is Olivia, who was injured for much of the past two seasons and sat out as a transfer in 2016-17. For her, I used the statistics from her most recent healthy season, as a sophomore at Pepperdine in 2015-16. The best result in each statistical category is highlighted in green.

(College statistics courtesy of Stanford Athletics, Pepperdine Athletics, Rice Athletics, and Her Hoop Stats.)

Chiney’s statistics leap off the page, which makes sense given that she set the Pac-12 Conference single-season scoring record as a senior and was a finalist for national player of the year. She also graduated as the Pac-12’s career scoring and rebounding leader, which shows how consistently excellent she was in her four years at Stanford.

Given that Chiney and Nneka were both No. 1 draft picks, you might expect Nneka’s numbers to be roughly on par with Chiney’s. And they are—22.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game are outstanding stats and made her a finalist for national player of the year as a senior. However, the only categories in which Nneka edges out all three siblings are in the team categories, as she played on a 35-2 Final Four team as a senior. (Chiney deserves partial credit for that, as she was a sophomore starter on that team and was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.)

Rather than Nneka winning the individual categories that Chiney didn’t, it’s the youngest Ogwumike, Erica, who fills the void. She is far and away the family’s most prolific three-point shooter; she made more than three times as many 3-pointers in 2018-19 as her sisters did, combined, in their respective seasons. She is also the family leader in free throw percentage, assists, and steals. These statistics are not surprising given that Erica is the only guard.

MIAMI, FL – JANUARY 13: Rice guard Erica Ogwumike (13) shoots during a college basketball game between the Rice University Owls and the Florida International University Panthers on January 13, 2018 at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center, Miami, Florida. FIU defeated Rice 68-58. (Photo by Richard C. Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

However, one statistic jumps out when you consider the Ogwumikes’ preferred positions. Chiney, the tallest of the siblings at 6’4”, had the most total rebounds per game (12.1). But Erica grabbed the most defensive rebounds per game (8.2). At 5’9”, Erica gives up two inches to Olivia, five to Nneka, and seven to Chiney. Earlier this year, Erica said, “I always make jokes and say my sisters stole my meals as a kid or something, and that’s the only reason they got that tall.”

With one collegiate season left to play, these statistics show that Erica is more than just the baby of an elite basketball family. She is also a potential pro prospect, if she’s willing to delay her goal of becoming a doctor. (Chiney recalled on a recent podcast that Nneka faced the same decision but didn’t even realize the WNBA was a possibility until midway through her senior season.) In a very early mock 2020 WNBA Draft, High Post Hoops’ Howard Megdal has Erica as a potential second-round pick, and she could play her way up the board with a strong senior season.

Meanwhile, Olivia hasn’t gotten much recognition in this column or nationally, but she made significant contributions to the Rice Owls’ 2018-19 NCAA Tournament team that don’t show up on the stats sheet. While she was injured, she served as a “player liaison” who helped communicate the coaches’ message and encouraged her teammates. In February, Olivia told Women’s Hoops World, “I had to learn how to understand the value of leading on and off the court … there are lots of ways to contribute to the team, not by only playing, but encouraging my teammates.”

MALIBU, CA – OCTOBER 31: Olivia Ogwumike #30 of the Pepperdine Waves defends against Britteny Stephenson #15 of the Bristol Bears during the first exhibition game of the season at Firestone Fieldhouse on October 31, 2015 in Malibu, California. Pepperdine won 91-43. (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

In a family that prizes academics as much as the Ogwumikes, it is also worth briefly looking beyond the sisters’ athletic statistics and at their academic records. In the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of top colleges, Stanford was ranked the highest of the Ogwumikes’ alma maters at No. 7, giving Nneka and Chiney bragging rights. (Rice was No. 16 and Pepperdine was No. 44.) However, Olivia is pursuing a master’s degree and Erica graduated college last week with an impressive pre-med triple major.

Perhaps Erica summed it up best when she told the Houston Chronicle, “I think we all have our little pathways of legacy.” Olivia added, “[Erica and I] never really felt pressure to live in the shadows of our sisters because it was never really what we were taught.”

Part 2 of this series will compare Nneka and Chiney’s WNBA careers to date. Here is a hint at what is to come: although Chiney’s college statistics are arguably the best in the family, Nneka is the sibling with bragging rights in the pros.

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