By Carl Adamec
It’s been an endless summer for Arike Ogunbowale.
But eventually all good things come to an end. The 5-foot-9 junior guard from Milwaukee will wrap up the season Sunday at the FIBA 3×3 U-18 world championships in Jakarta, Indonesia. Team USA will take on unbeaten France in a quarterfinal game at 4 a.m. EDT.
“This has just been a great summer,” Ogunbowale said. “It started with being named to the U-16 team and winning a gold medal and I’m finishing it up by being here (in Jakarta). I’ve learned so much and I think the experiences have really helped me mature.”
Team USA — which includes UConn Class of 2015 recruiting targets Ogunbowale and Katie Lou Samuelson (6-2 wing, Huntington Beach, Calif.) along with Notre Dame recruit Brianna Turner and California-Berkeley recruit Gabby Green — took second in Pool B after losing to Lithuania 11-9 and beating Spain 14-11 Saturday. The Americans (5-1) then eliminated Thailand 21-14 in the round of 16 to advance to Sunday.
The winner of the USA-France game will face either Spain or the Czech Republic Sunday at either 5 or 5:30 a.m. EDT. The bronze medal game will be at 7:30 a.m. EDT and the gold medal game at 9 a.m. EDT. Team USA won’t have to deal with Lithuania, which was knocked out by Great Britain in the round of 16.
“We’re going to have to play physical the way we did against Thailand,” Ogunbowale said. “If the other teams don’t have the skill we have, they’re going to be physical with us and we have to be ready to play that way.”
Ogunbowale’s summer adventure started in Colorado Springs in May and eventually took her halfway around the world.
As a sophomore, she led Divine Savior Holy Angels High to a 21-4 record and the Division I state section semifinals by averaging 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 3.1 steals. She was named Wisconsin’s Associated Press and Gatorade state Player of the Year.
She made her first USA Basketball national team when she was chosen to the U-16 squad after the trials at the United States Olympic Training Center. She averaged 10.0 points, fourth on the team, and 3.2 rebounds in 16.4 minutes per game off the bench as Team USA (5-0) won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas tournament in Cancun, Mexico, and qualified for the 2014 U-17 world championships.
Ogunbowale then joined forces with Samuelson — a U-16 teammate — and U-19 gold medalists Turner and Green to win the 3×3 national tournament title and the FIBA Americas gold before heading to Indonesia.
“I really haven’t played 3-on-3 before this summer, maybe just some pick-up in the backyard,” Ogunbowale said. “I like it. People have to play you honestly. And I’m kind of a big guard so I like going down low and posting up.”
She’ll return home to Milwaukee Monday and begin her quest for what has been through two years an elusive chase for a state title.
“I can’t wait for my high school season to start so I can pass on what I’ve learned and help us win a championship.” Ogunbowale said. “Maybe the best lesson I’ve learned is to keep looking ahead, keep looking forward, and not worry about the last play or what happened in the past. The thing you can control is the next play so make it a good one.
“We don’t have a tall team, but I think we have a very good team and we have great chemistry. I’m excited.”
Ogunbowale also carries a 3.49 grade point average. Her father, Gregory, is a high school principal and her mother, Yolanda, is a teacher.
“Academics are important and that’s something my parents taught me when I was young,” Ogunbowale said. “They pushed me when I was younger but I think I understand now what they mean and I’m glad I have that background.”
She also has two older brothers — Mario and Dare. Dare Ogunbowale is a redshirt freshman defensive back for the University of Wisconsin football team. The 23rd-ranked Badgers visit No. 4 Ohio State tonight.
Just ask former UConn guards Jennifer Rizzotti and Caroline Doty what it was like growing up with older brothers.
“It was always very competitive. They didn’t take it easy on me,” Ogunbowale said with a laugh. “But everyone in my family is competitive. My mother doesn’t like even losing a card game. And with my brothers it’s that kind of environment. They treat me like anyone else, not like their little sister.”
Of course, her success at her high school and with USA Basketball has brought her plenty of attention from colleges. In between getting ready for the 3×3 championships, she welcomed a number of coaches to Milwaukee.
One was UConn’s Geno Auriemma.
“He came to our gym at school and we did a home visit,” Ogunbowale said. “It was great. He’s a Hall of Fame coach and it was a cool experience to get to meet him.”
UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey is in Indonesia. Ogunbowale would not commit to taking a visit to UConn but said the Huskies are “in the running” as it’s still early in the process.
“I haven’t really narrowed it down, maybe soon,” Ogunbowale said. “But when my high school season starts, I really want to focus on that and trying to win a state championship. School and basketball are hard enough. We’ll come up with a plan on when and where I’ll take my visits.”
This weekend, though, the only trip she’s thinking about is one to the gold medal stand.
Nurse, Canada settle for silver
UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target Kia Nurse helped Canada qualify for the 2014 FIBA world championships as a top-three finisher at the FIBA Americas tournament in Mexico.
But Canada dropped a 79-71 decision to Cuba in Saturday’s gold-medal game. Nurse had nine points, shooting just 2-for-10 from the floor. In six tourney games, the 17-year-old guard averaged 10.0 points and 2.5 assists in 24.0 minutes.