Arike Ogunbowale's gotten even better in Year 2

Hear why and how Ogunbowale's improved on her rookie season

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PALMETTO, FL- SEPTEMBER 2: Arike Ogunbowale #24 of the Dallas Wings drives to the basket against the Los Angeles Sparks on September 2, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.

For as much weight that is on the shoulders of Arike Ogunbowale, she hasn’t shied away from the load she’s carried since arriving in Dallas.

Though she has a bit more offensive help this season with Allisha Gray playing some of her best basketball and collegiate teammate Marina Mabrey thriving in all facets since entering the starting lineup, the Wings wouldn’t be in position to make the playoffs without Ogunbowale.

“Arike has been a scorer,” Crystal Robinson told The Next. “She came into the league as a scorer. I think that the next step for Arike becoming an elite player is learning how to be a very efficient scorer. Arike has proven she can score the ball, she’s proven she can pass the ball, now she has to find a way to put both of them together to maximize her game….When she kicks it out, consistently kicks that ball out, lanes are gonna open back up. I think it’s just her youth and she’s figuring it out. Her career, as she learns and grows, is gonna be a phenomenal one for the record books.”

Ogunbowale has become slightly more efficient from the field compared to her rookie year, going from 39 percent to 41 percent, while her three-point percentage has remained the same at 35 percent from beyond the arc. She’s seen slight increases in the other major categories aside from blocks. And she’s on the verge of carrying the Dallas Wings to the WNBA playoffs.

She has led all guards in scoring in her first two seasons in the league and is putting on an offensive display this league hasn’t seen from a player so early in their careers since Seimone Augustus in her first two seasons.

Let’s dive deeper:

By the Numbers

Ogunbowale led all guards in scoring last season and was third overall at 19.1 points per game. Her 630 points is third in WNBA history in rookie points, scoring 20 or more points in 18 games last season including 11 consecutive to finish the year in 2019. Those 630 points in the season were just 12 behind Brittney Griner for the most total points in the season.

This season alone, in fewer games, she’s already topped her rookie year by quite a bit.

Ogunbowale is just the 17th player in WNBA history to average 21 points per game in a single season. She is also the third player in WNBA history to be in the top three players in scoring in her first two seasons, along with Augustus and Cynthia Cooper.

“Arike has improved year after year,” Gray said. “Each year she’s breaking records, this year she’s in the running for MVP and it’s only her second year in the league. It just shows how much she can improve as a player, but overall Arike has been playing great to be in the MVP running being in only her second year in the league. Her future is very bright and it’s gonna be really exciting to see.”

In 2020, provided she remains at her clip of 21.9 points per game, she would rank 15th all-time in WNBA history for per-game average in a single season and sixth most since 2010. She leads the league in most field goals made (152) and attempted (373), ranks fifth in free throw attempts (105) and fifth in most made free throws (89), 10th in total steals (32) and second in the league in minutes at 33.8 minutes per game.

In the Clutch

Ogunbowale is known for being clutch — most notably when she put the world on notice in the Final Four against the University of Connecticut and in the National Championship game against Mississippi State in 2018.

She ranks first in the WNBA in clutch time scoring (last 4 minutes of the game) out of the five players who have played in five or more games late and averaged at least three of those four minutes of play in clutch time.

Sunday afternoon against the Washington Mystics, Ogunbowale once again showed her clutch gene.

“Hard work,” Ogunbowale said. “That comes from within. You can’t go to the gym and do all that if you’re not dedicated and want to get better. I give that to myself and how I was raised. Other than that, I work with my trainer who is like my best friend, Darrell Johnson. Obviously corona hit a lot of people and it’s very serious, but that’s an off-season I wouldn’t have gotten because I still would’ve been overseas. I got a couple of extra months to get in the gym and really workout every single day, whenever I wanted to and got better. That was definitely big for me.”

With playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Ogunbowale is answering the call. Answered not only with the game-tying shot to take it into overtime, but a career-high scoring night with 39 points against the Mystics after eclipsing the 1,000 point mark this past Friday. Doing so in just 51 games, making her the third fastest in WNBA history behind Cooper (45) and Augustus (46).

If Dallas concludes its playoff push successfully this weekend, expect Ogunbowale to provide plenty of the production to make it happen — especially when the games are on the line.