Just two seasons into her WNBA career, Dallas Wings’ guard Arike Ogunbowale is must-watch basketball. Despite standing just 5’8”, Arike is already one of the W’s best shot creators. And has an array of tools to get her high-arcing shot past defenders.
Her highlights are a scoring clinic: quick crossovers, open court changes of speed, and balance-defying step backs. Add this all up, and you’ll understand how Arike led the league in scoring in just her sophomore campaign.
Even before making it as a pro, Arike had become a household name. Thanks to the herculean efforts that propelled the University of Notre Dame to a thrilling NCAA tournament run back in 2018.
Arike’s individual exploits have brought her fame, from TV appearances (as both guest and contestant) to endorsement opportunities. Through it all, she uses her platform to talk up the game she loves.
“Shout out to women’s basketball as a whole,” Arike said, after receiving the ESPY for “Best Shot” in 2018. “There’s a lot of people with their opinions about us, but all I have to say is come see us on the court.”
In this piece, we’ll dive into all of that: her athletic upbringing, her decorated college career, and her immediate ascension to an All-Star level in the WNBA. We’ll reveal her offensive quirks, and what her stats say about her strengths and weaknesses. Plus, we’ll predict what could be in the cards for Arike in the future.
Thus far, Arike’s scoring prowess has yet to translate to on-court team success for the Dallas Wings — a franchise with a shaky history of late when it comes to keeping its star players happy. Now, despite having just 55 games under her belt at the pro level, the Wings are Arike’s team.
Let’s start from the beginning. Arike Ogunbowale, was born March 2, 1997 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she lived until departing for college. The name “Arike” roughly translates to “something that you see and you cherish” in Yoruba, the official language of Nigeria, where her father is from.
Arike’s the youngest of three, and not the only athlete in the family. Both her parents played sports. Her father, Gregory, played soccer and rugby before serving in the Nigerian Army. He’s currently a school principal in Milwaukee.
Her mother, Yolanda, may be responsible for the majority of her athletic ability. Yolanda, or “Londy,” dominated while playing softball at Harlem High School. Going 37-3 with an (approximate) 417 strikeouts in just 238 innings. She went on to pitch for DePaul, where she was named the conference’s offensive MVP — driving in 35 runs and hitting .295 while also notching 16 wins on the mound.
“There were no opportunities to keep playing back then,” Yolanda told RR Star. “In basketball, you could maybe go play overseas. Although the money wasn’t that great. In softball, it really wasn’t until Jennie Finch came along that opportunities started to open up.”
Arike’s got two brothers. Mario works in the catering industry. The other, Dare, is currently an NFL running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He played four years at the University of Wisconsin, before signing in the NFL as an un-drafted free agent.
He’s played for four teams, including the Jags, with previous stops in Houston, Washington, and Tampa Bay. He sees time as a third down running back and on special teams. While in Tampa Bay, he was named a captain despite his limited playing time, reflecting his leadership ability and his commitment to social justice.
“Back in the day I used to win, just by being bigger,” Dare said in an interview while on the Bucs, talking about his backyard basketball games with Arike when they were kids. “As soon as she started getting a little bit too skilled, I stopped playing so often. I was tired of losing.”
Growing up, Arike held her own in any circle of competition. “We treated her like one of the boys,” her cousin, Diamond Stone, an NBA G-league player, told the Washington Post. “She didn’t get any calls. She played hard. She’d get right back up. She had that toughness. I think that’s why she’s so successful right now.”
Arike started for varsity all four years at Divine Savior Holy Angels. The nationally ranked Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school was conducive to her development as a scorer. And it didn’t take long for her to start breaking records.
She averaged 17.3 points as a freshman, and saw her per-game totals climb each successive year to 27.2 in her senior season. Over the course of her high school career, Arike put up averages of 22.2 points per game (PPG) and 9.6 rebounds per game (RPG). Her 2,240 cumulative points totaled sixth on Wisconsin’s all-time scoring list.
In her penultimate game in 2015, the state semifinals, she scored a tournament record 55 points to lead her team to victory. Arike halved that for just 27 points in the final on the way to securing the state title. The other team scored a total of 29 points. That year, Arike was named Wisconsin Miss Basketball, an accolade given to the state’s best high school basketball player.
“I think she will be remembered as the greatest female player in the state of Wisconsin,” wrote her high school coach, Jeff Worzella, in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, covered later by the Washington Post. “I just sat there on the sidelines and was simply amazed at what she could do on the basketball floor.”
After narrowing her pool to five potential schools, Arike committed to the University of Notre Dame. Where her growing legend would make its mark on Indiana.
Arike immediately made her mark as a freshman, even though she played with the second team. She and fellow first-year Marina Mabrey (her close friend and current pro teammate with the Wings) became the first bench duo in program history to post double-figure scoring averages. Arike would go on to start 113 out of 114 games over her next three years, her name a staple at Purcell Pavilion introductions.
Arike’s sophomore season was her most efficient one, as she eased into a lineup that included future WNBA talent in Marina Mabrey, Brianna Turner, Lindsay Allen, and neophyte Jackie Young. Arike’s scoring jumped from 11.4 PPG to 15.9 PPG. And she hit 45.4 percent of her threes, which graded in the 99th percentile, according to Her Hoop Stats.
Despite notching a number one seed in that year’s March Madness tournament, Notre Dame fell to Stanford in a heartbreaker, 76-75. Despite 25 points from Arike on an efficient 9/16 shooting.
Arike’s junior year is what really put her into the national conversation. Again, she saw another leap in scoring, this time rising another 4.9 points to average 20.8 PPG. Where she cemented her legacy in NCAA lore, however, was in that year’s tourney.
In its Final Four matchup, the Fighting Irish came up against the UConn Huskies, who had only lost one of its last 147 contests. Notre Dame nearly completed the upset in regulation. But UConn scored five within the last 15 seconds, tying the game on a three-point make by Napheesa Collier and a Kia Nurse steal-to-layup.
In overtime, tied at 89, Arike got the ball, iso’d against Napheesa. Going to her patented crossover step back, Arike created space. Swish.
Her childhood hero, the late Kobe Bryant, sat courtside that day, and Arike was aware.
“I know I just had to shoot it at the last minute,” she said. “I didn’t want to give them a chance to get the ball. I went into Mamba mentality. Kobe’s here, so that’s what I tried to channel.”
Just two days later, Arike and the Irish were back at it. This time against Mississippi State, who had lost in the championship the previous year and were looking for redemption. After falling behind by 15 early in the second half, Notre Dame made its move. Erasing the deficit completely by the time the fourth quarter started. The final period would volley back and forth, eventually setting up an inbounds pass for Notre Dame with just three seconds to go. Tie game, blank slate with time left on the clock.
Just making herself available for the ball was difficult: Arike navigated a high-post screen by Jessica Shepard. Then fought through the switch to make herself available directly in front of the inbounder.
With her defender on her hip, Arike took two quick dribbles to her right and elevated, squaring her shoulders in the instant she rose for the shot. At its apex, the ball cleared the height of the backboard. When it fell, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were champions.
The consecutive clutch buzzer beaters made Arike a celebrity. She won the “Best Shot” ESPY; she showed off her nimble footwork while competing on Dancing with the Stars; she met Kobe, who gifted a custom Lakers’ jersey to her dog, who shares his name.
As a senior, all eyes were on Arike. For a third straight year, she raised her scoring average, this time by a point to 21.8 PPG. She had one goal: to repeat. This time, however, they’d come up just short, nearly overcoming an 11-point fourth quarter deficit only to lose 82-81 to the top-seeded Baylor Bears.
Again, Arike had a chance late, getting to the free throw line down by two with just a second to go. Her first attempt rattled out, in, and out again, preventing a tie. She tried to miss the second, but that time, the bounce was true.
There was little time for Arike to mourn the loss. Within three days of the final, the Dallas Wings, with the fifth overall pick, called her name in the WNBA draft. All five Notre Dame starters were within the first 19 selections: (Jackie Young R1:P1, Las Vegas Aces; Brianna Turner R1:P11, Atlanta Dream; Jessica Shepard R2:P16, Minnesota Lynx; Marina Mabrey R2:P19, Los Angeles Sparks).
“It was definitely a quick turnaround,” Arike told The Undefeated. “What happened at the end of the season, that’s something small out of my four years. I had a great career, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
All totaled, Arike would leave as Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer, finishing her collegiate career with 2,626 points. She’s all over the school’s offensive record books, and ranks second in PPG, with her 17.6 PPG bested only by Beth Morgan’s 18.6 PPG.
“I think Arike is a unique player in that she is a scorer. She is someone who puts the ball in the basket,” Wings’ CEO Greg Bibb said following the draft. “She’s a player who can create her own shot. On top of that, I love her fearlessness.”
He continued, “She wants the ball in the big moment and she certainly has proven to be able to deliver in that moment. I think she is especially dangerous in transition, and I think the program’s going to suit her very well. We’ve had a pretty good track record with Notre Dame guards in our organization, so I’m looking forward to having her join us.”
But the Wings roster was in flux, and would see a big transaction just a month after the draft. Shortly before the 2019 season tipped off, Dallas dealt Liz Cambage to Las Vegas, following the All-Star center’s trade request.
The hope was that Arike would share the backcourt and scoring load with another Notre Dame alum, Skylar Diggins-Smith. But those two would never play together, either. Skylar would sit out the entirety of the 2019 season, after battling postpartum depression following the birth of her son, and was clearly unhappy with her situation in Dallas. She would depart a year later, shipped to Phoenix for two 2020 first rounders and Chicago’s Astou Ndour.
The cost of losing all that established talent? Lots of draft equity. The selection netted from the Liz Cambage deal would move onto New York to sweeten the deal for eating Tayler Hill’s large $117,000 contract. Alongside choosing Oregon’s Satou Sabally at second overall, the 2020 draft return for Skylar Diggins-Smith turned into Bella Alarie and Ty Harris with the fifth and seventh picks, respectively. 2021 promises even more selections.
The youth movement is in full swing, even ahead of the three first-rounders still to come in next year’s draft. According to Kurtis Zimmerman’s article for The Next, players on Dallas’ roster entering 2020 averaged 24.2 years old. This marked the team as the W’s youngest, well below the average roster age of 27.1 years old.
But back to Arike, who again hit the ground running. Despite a renewed level of competition at the pro level. She started 28 of 33 games, scoring 19.1 per contest. This ranked third in the league behind just Brittney Griner (20.7 PPG) and Elena Delle Donne (19.5 PPG).
Her passing numbers were much better at the next level, though. Arike immediately improved on the 2.4 assists per game (APG) she averaged in college, dishing out 3.2 APG during her rookie season.
Though she established herself as a scoring threat, team success lagged behind. Dallas, with a 10-23 record, missed the playoffs. At the conclusion of her first professional season, Arike finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting to former Husky and current Lynx, Collier.
In year two, Arike again showed further improvement, building off her impressive rookie season. During this past season in Bradenton, Arike led the WNBA in scoring, with an average of 22.8 PPG. In the larger context of the league, this number is even more impressive.
According to Across the Timeline, there have been only 13 seasons of 22+ PPG, and just nine players accounting for all that scoring. Arike’s 2020 mark lands eighth on that all-time single-season scoring list. While contextualizing this season is difficult, due to the fact that there were just 22 games and it was played in a single-site bubble. Though it’s a fair bet that this is not the last scoring title we see from the young star.
In another lottery-bound season (8-14) for the Wings, Arike was present on seven of the team’s top eight five-player lineups. The team as a whole put up a -3.5 +/-. While on the court, Arike performed to a -1.2 clip; while on the bench, the team performance slipped to -2.4. Only three other players averaged double figures scoring in 2020: Satou Sabally (13.9 PPG), Allisha Gray (13.1 PPG), and Marina Mabrey (10.6 PPG).
Arike can score when she wants, how she wants. Basically, she has the skill set to do whatever it takes to get the win. Here we’ll check out some of her best highlights.
Before we break down some individual performances, here’s six minutes of non-stop Arike buckets from 2020. She kicks it off by draining a nice step back three. She hits an easy hesi hang, cross over, and three. Then we see her use the screen to hit a pull up jumper – an Arike special.
In an August 16, 2020 matchup against the Phoenix Mercury, Arike caught fire. She scored 33 points on 13/19 from the field. And hit a career high six threes on just seven attempts. All six triples came off assists, and all came from the left wing. Her shooting performance helped the team overcome the Mercury despite missing Satou Sabally down low to combat an efficient Brittney Griner (29 points on 12/17 shooting).
Next, we need to look at one of the most thrilling WNBA games from this past season. On September 6, 2020, the Dallas Wings squared up with the Washington Mystics in a tight back-and-forth game. Despite falling behind by eight with just over three minutes left in regulation, the Wings clawed and fought, earning a chance at a game-tying look after an Emma Meesseman free throw miss left the score at 86-83. Enter Arike.
Arike catches the inbound with 6.8 on the clock. Picking her up full court is Ariel Atkins, a pesky defender that ranked second in the league in steals with 1.8 per game. As they cross the timeline, Ariel pushes up towards Arike’s hip, blocking off the top of the key.
A step short of the three-point line, Arike drags her left foot, slowing her momentum like she is decelerating a bike with faulty brakes. Ariel flies by, and Arike pushes all her momentum right. There’s five feet of separation when she gets off her look. The high-arcing shot doesn’t even kiss rim as it drops through the net. Arike would add nine more points in overtime for a career-high 39, and Dallas would emerge with a 101-94 victory.
Just five days after setting that career best in scoring, Arike came close to eclipsing it. On September 11, 2020, in a tight seesaw loss to the Chicago Sky, Arike put up 38 points on 13/26 from the floor. This was one of her most aggressive performances: she regularly sought out contact and took the Sky guards off the dribble.
There’s Heat Check Arike, who pulls up from anywhere, and then there’s this version, Aggressive Arike, who uses all her momentum to blitz defenses and find her spots. Both are equally dangerous.
Although she performs admirably in isolation, which we’ll talk about shortly, there’s one part of Arike’s game that occurs frequently within the flow of the Wings offense. On the whole, according to WNBA Advanced Stats, just 37.6 percent of her makes came off assists.
That number, however, shot way up when Arike stepped behind the arc. Arike made 65.1 percent – nearly two-thirds – of her threes off a teammate’s setup. Many of those came off high-screen curls or handoffs.
Arike rarely found herself shooting in the corners, a la the game-winner against Mississippi State. Instead, Dallas’ offense nearly always put Arike above the break to give her room to operate. Why was this so important? Because Arike’s just as dangerous driving to the hoop with either hand.
According to Synergy Sports, Arike topped the W in drives to the left. Her ambidexterity allowed her to be the most efficient shooter driving left (1.35 points per possession [PPP]), but also the most frequent (29 total possessions; Candace Parker was second with 18). This wrinkle to her game allowed her to catch defenders flatfooted, while also opening up extra angles of attack.
Arike’s aggressiveness often led her straight to the charity stripe. In her rookie season, her 4.4 free throw makes on 5.4 free throw attempts were each good for second in the league; in her sophomore year, she made 4.9 on 5.7 attempts per game, this time ranking fourth and third in the W.
Arike shoots 83.2 percent from the line thus far in her young career, a very respectable mark. Two years in, Arike has seen 22.3 percent of her points come after contact, according to Her Hoops Stats. This accounts for an additional 4.6 points added to her scoring average.
If you’re going to be among the W’s top scorers, you can’t just be a shooter. You need an extensive tool kit, and the dexterity to utilize the entire arsenal. Here’s a look at some of Arike’s biggest basketball strengths.
Isoball, or hero ball, gets a bad rep, because the optics are not great: players clear out and let the star go to work. In late game situations, though, every team needs that go-to player willing to go head-to-head and have the confidence to go and get that bucket. According to Synergy, nobody in the league did that as well as Arike Ogunbowale in 2020.
It wasn’t just that Arike averaged 1.17 PPP on isolation plays, the highest mark in the league. Even more impressively, she did so with the most points scored (75) and highest number of attempts (64), so it’s not as if she was grazing the minimum mark to qualify. During her rookie season, Arike graded 17th in isolation PPP (0.83). Her growth as a sophomore, even with defenses now having pro tape on her game, is no small feat.
This can be the most difficult thing to do, but it’s also the most important. If you can’t get off a clean look, it’s much more difficult to score. Arike’s ability to keep the ball on a string allows her to maneuver around the court fluidly and pick her moment to strike.
She does this with an array of activity: a preternatural aptitude to navigate screens to either attack overly aggressive defenders with drives or capitalize on those that sag beneath the pick; an ability to change speeds at any moment to find creases in the defense; or a lull-you-to-sleep dribble into a devastating step back that has humbled many opponents. This all wouldn’t be possible without her next strength, though.
Arike’s jump shot is smooth – no wasted movement in a burst of upward momentum. She’s got a high arc, too, which causes the ball to land softly on the rim, allowing for shooter’s rolls at a high frequency. Arike’s sense of timing while readying for a shot is also elite, not just on jumpers, but on drives as well. Her capacity to probe defenses for gaps allows her to find the smallest of windows to get her shot off, in floaters and double-clutches, in pull-up jumpers and fadeaways.
In 2020, Arike carried the third best assist-to-turnover ratio on the Wings, with her 1.67/1 mark behind just rookie point guard Ty Harris (3.22/1) and sophomore forward Katie Lou Samuelson (2.50/1). Arike’s 75 assists led the team and ranked 13th in the league. With her potent scoring ability likely to draw a crowd, Arike has made a habit of finding the open teammate.
As all hoopers know, there’s nothing more satisfying than knocking down a shot after a foul, with your teammates screaming “and one!” while your opponent argues with the referee. It’s a real skill, absorbing the hit and still making the basket. We talked earlier about Arike’s ability to get to the foul line – this is doing so in style!
In 2020, Arike finished 18 and-ones, good for second in the league and just one behind league MVP, A’ja Wilson (who, at 6’4”, has a heavy advantage in shrugging off defenders to complete her attempt). Arike’s creativity has a lot to do with her ability to convert the hoop despite the harm.
Even superheroes have Achilles’ heels. Here are a few of Arike’s weaknesses.
According to the WNBA Advanced Stats page, just 20 players measured in at 5’8” or under. It feels petty (or Peddy, who stands 5’7”) to call out Arike’s height as a knock, but she has only blocked one shot over the course of her 55-game WNBA career. (Even that block is an iffy call, and I’m sure Los Angeles’ Sydney Wiese would not enjoy having this distinction on her resume.)
Still, it’s a nitpick, because on the offensive end this season, Arike only had her own shot rejected just 17 times in 420 attempts. And, as mentioned earlier, she’s an adept finisher at the rim.
Defensively, Arike’s largest struggle is in dealing with the pick and roll. According to Synergy, Arike ranked in just the 17th percentile when single covering the P&R, allowing 55 points on 46 possessions. She graded in just the 18th percentile defending dribbles off the pick, where she surrendered 46 points on 40 possessions.
She also found challenges in navigating hand-offs, where opponents scored 29 points on 19 possessions, translating to 1.53 PPP. Here, her matchups scored on 11/17 attempts, which is a 64.7 percent clip, and Arike came in at just the 2nd percentile overall.
Of the 42 qualifying players (10 or more possessions), only Mabrey, her long-term teammate, rated worse in this category. This could be a big attacking point for opposing teams when these two share the floor defensively, especially as they attempt to mitigate the scoring punch from this dynamic backcourt.
As shown by the chart below, Arike’s percentages dipped significantly when she took shots just outside the paint, but still within the arc. We went through all 50 of the attempts Arike took in the 11-15 foot range so you don’t have to.
What we noticed is that she often found herself out of control here. Either stuck between trying to get to the rim or trying to draw a foul. There were limitations to the angles she could use to try and get her shots up here, so secondary defenders could step up without worrying about double-clutch finishes. Even at this range, though, the step backs were effective.
Dallas has the chance to add lots more young talent again in the 2021 draft. They’ll be on the clock three times in the first round, remarkably holding the second, fifth, and seventh picks for the second consecutive year.
The Wings will also be playing for a new coach, after announcing Vickie Johnson as the team’s new leader in the huddle on December 9, 2020. Vickie, coming over from the Las Vegas Aces, will try to impart the winning culture that just saw that Aces team finish the bubble season as a runner-up.
As for Arike, she’s excited about what comes next for the Dallas Wings. “We have a lot of potential,” she told Uproxx in an interview back in October. “We were in just about every game. We competed with every team we played and never really lost by a lot, so for us to do that while we were still figuring stuff out, didn’t even really have training camp, and as the youngest team in the league. We have a long way to go, we built chemistry this year, but I’m really excited for the future of this team.”
Her primary goal has always been to win. And in her first two years in the league, the best avenue to victory has asked for a lot of shooting from her. With a new influx of talent coming in and the further development of Satou’s unique skill set as a second top-tier player, Arike might be relieved of some of that scoring pressure. Still, when the clock ticks down in the final seconds of a tight game, there’s no woman in the world you’d rather see with the ball in her hands.
The best place to find Arike content? The source herself. Her Twitter @Arike_0 is an awesome aggregate of the latest Arike Ogunbowale highlights, so head over there and scroll through her latest achievements.
Over on Instagram, our personal favorite section is Arike’s saved album of Kobe pictures. Where you can see the pup grow over the last couple of years.
We’ve also got to plug Arike’s merch shop, because she’s got some of the best swag in the W. The “trading-card” design is fire.
Lastly, if you want to keep up with Arike on the court, she’s currently playing overseas for Dynamo Kursk in Russia. There, she’s surrounded by some solid WNBA talent: Alex Bentley (Las Vegas Aces), Stephanie Mavunga (Chicago Sky), Raisa Musina (signed and waived by the Las Vegas Aces in 2020), and Amanda Zahui B (New York Liberty).
Though the team is 9-0 in Russia’s PBL Standings, they’re 0-2 so far in the Group A qualifiers of the ultra-competitive FIBA EuroLeague Women. In those two games, Arike is averaging 23.0 PPG and 5.5 APG. Bookmark FIBA’s YouTube page to catch all those games live!
Up next, learn all about the “White Mamba” Diana Taurasi.
Written by Myles Ehrlich, a WNBA writer from Brooklyn, NY, who also covers the New York Liberty as a beat writer during the season. You can absorb his hot takes on Twitter and find more of his work on Nets Republic and TBW Basketball.
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