Hey, ho, Ogwumike is ready to go
Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun are days away from starting the regular season, and post Chiney Ogwumike is ready to go.
Oh, is she ready to go.
“I’m tired, but this training camp has been perfect,” Ogwumike said after Tuesday’s practice. “It got me in shape quickly.
“I still think I’m not in let-me-run-up-Mount-Everest-shape, which was probably only doable in college, but I’m ready to play. I’m ready to play.”
The Sun open their 16th regular season at home Sunday against the Las Vegas Aces (1 p.m.).
Ogwumike is raring to go having missed out on the Sun’s coming out party last season because of an Achilles injury, the second time an injury cost her an entire season.
Ogwumike was around the team, but as an observer, not a participant. It was made harder by the fact that she experienced only losing seasons with Connecticut. The Sun were universally picked to be among the WNBA's worst teams again, but instead were the league's best surprise and finished with the fourth-best record (21-13).
“I love little challenges,” Ogwumike said. “Every day, I just tried to be better, whether it was the rehab, better as a teammate even though I couldn’t play.
“It was a challenge. I was really proud of what they accomplished last year, but I always felt like, ‘Man, I wish I could be part of it.’ Now I can be part of it. … I just look at us and am like, ‘wow.’ I love playing with these people. I feel like we can win. We can beat anybody. So it’s cool. My body is cool.”
Ogwumike played in two of Connecticut’s three preseason games and was rested for the other. She averaged 16.5 minutes, nine points and six rebounds.
“It’s great to have her back,” head coach Curt Miller said. “She really impacts us at the defensive end. Offensively, you don’t have to run a lot of things for her because she’s so efficient.
“She’s really impacted us on the court and equally off the court. She’s such a positive presence. She’s always up. She’s always in a good mood. She’s great to have around the team and the locker room. You can’t put a price on (that).”
Ogwumike’s return presents a good problem for Miller because the Sun have a crowded frontcourt with her, Alyssa Thomas, Morgan Tuck and Jonquel Jones (who Miller hopes will join the team by the end of the week).
“(Their minutes) will be by feel,” Miller said. “It’s a long season with a compacted schedule, so anyone, let along Chiney, we’ve got to avoid those short weeks where we’re playing her in the upper 20s or maybe even on an occasion trying to get her towards 30 minutes. With the amount of games in short periods that we have going on, that would be difficult on anyone.”
One big benefit Ogwumike had missing last season was being able to work full-time for ESPN hosting “SportsCenter Africa” and appearing on its other shows. The network elevated her to full-time basketball analyst earlier this month.
The added benefit of her new job is that she won’t have to play overseas during the offseason to supplement her income. So instead of playing nearly year round, she can stay in the states and rest her body.
“Anybody in my position would consider this a golden ticket,” Ogwumike said.
“Life is what you make it. When I got drafted here, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s Connecticut. What’s up with that team?’ This ended up being my dream.”
• Connecticut announced its final 12-woman roster Wednesday afternoon: Posts Brionna Jones, Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Tuck and Ogwumike, wings Betnijah Laney (newcomer) and Shekinna Stricklen, and guards Rachel Banham, Alex Bentley, Lexie Brown (rookie), Jasmine Thomas, and Courtney Williams. Cayla George, Nikki Greene, Jessica January and Leticia Romero were cut. ... Los Angeles is the favorite to win the WNBA title in the league’s annual GM poll, which was released Wednesday. Los Angeles received 33-percent of the vote, followed by defending champion Minnesota (25%), Connecticut and Phoenix (17%), and Dallas (8%). ... The Sun are the overwhelming favorite to have the most regular-season wins in the Eastern Conference (75%). They were also voted the most fun to watch (50%).