June 2, 2009

Nation's No. 1 player for 2010

PLAYER RANKINGS: Top 50 in 2009 | Top 25 in 2010 | 10 to Watch in 2011

The Nigerian name "Chinenye" means "God gives." The name "Ogwumike" means "warrior."

Both are appropriate for Rivals.com's top girls' hoop prospect for the Class of 2010.

Chinenye Ogwumike already has helped bring one Texas 5A state championship to Houston's Cy-Fair High School, as well as a state finals appearance, and she still has her senior season remaining.

She won the state championship her sophomore year playing on a team with eight seniors, including her sister, Nneka, a McDonald's All American now at Stanford. The team lost only two games that year when the sisters were still playing volleyball.

This past season, despite losing a lot of talent and experience around her, Ogwumike led the Bobcats to the state semifinals. With her sister graduated, she became the team's undisputed leader on and off the court, averaging 21.4 points and 12.6 rebounds.

"It was different but it wasn't difficult, because playing with her I became dependent," she said. "But this year, I was able to be basically an individual and evaluate myself as a whole and grow with my team."

Ogwumike made an immediate impression her freshman year when she played and eventually started for a team that lost only one game the Texas 5A state championship, in overtime. Her coach, Ann Roubique, said she could tell Ogwumike was a special player.

"She wasn't one of those uncoordinated, gangly, long freshman kids," Roubique said. "She was extremely coordinated for her age."

Roubique said Ogwumike is getting better. She is physically stronger and more comfortable with the game, and she has improved her ballhandling and outside shooting. Ogwumike said her hard work has made the improvements possible.

"I'm never pleased," she said. "I know I still miss layups, I know I still miss jumpers, so as long as I'm missing something, I'm still going to be working all the time."

For the record, she pronounces her name "Shuh-NAY og-WOO-me-kay" and Americanizes her first name by writing "Chiney." Her parents came to this country before she was born and have raised her and her siblings as Americans while maintaining ties to their close-knit extended family and their Nigerian heritage.

Outside of school, Ogwumike sometimes dresses in Nigerian clothing, and the family eats Nigerian food. She has visited her family's homeland twice and hopes to go again after graduation.

Ogwumike is one of two first-generation Nigerians in RivalsHigh.com's top-10 list of girls basketball players in the Class of 2010. The other, Afure Jemerigbe of St. Mary's High School in Stockton, Calif., is ranked ninth.

At 6 feet 3 (in basketball shoes, she admits), Ogwumike plays center for Cy-Fair, but the offensive scheme rotates her out of the lane and allows her to shoot 3-pointers. That will help develop her game for college, where she likely will play forward.

Ogwumike hasn't pared her list of prospective schools in fact, she hasn't made any official visits. Using her sister's experiences as a guide, she said her school choice will be based on the academic environment as well as its fit for her and her family. That means she might or might not play for a basketball powerhouse.

"Those schools are wonderful, and you never know one of them might be the right pick for me," she said. "I'm looking at the opportunity at the place that fits for me."

Ogwumike would like to play professionally and also is interested in law, public relations and marketing. But for now, she's a high school hoops player.

"I know what I'm here for," she said. "I'm here to play the game. I'm here to have fun and get better, and I think as long as I'm doing that, I'm going to be No. 1 in my book. Numbers don't matter to me, really, as long as I accomplish what I set out to do."

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