Chiney Ogwumike opts for Stanford
Chiney Ogwumike, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2010 class, has signed a national letter of intent to play for Stanford . She chose the Cardinal over Connecticut and Notre Dame and signed her NLI during a ceremony on Thursday morning at her high school, Cy-Fair, in her hometown of Cypress, Texas.
Meanwhile, the team she will join next fall was in the middle of Tropical Storm Ida, on a bus near Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va., where they are scheduled to play Friday night. While coach Tara VanDerveer spoke to reporters on a conference call, the bus at one point turned around, in knee-deep water, to avoid a stalled vehicle.
"Chiney called me this morning," VanDerveer said. "I was so knocked out I didn't know who it was on the phone. It took me a minute. ... It's obviously very exciting. ... I asked Chiney if Nneka knew and she kind of laughed."
Stanford was an expected pick because her older sister, Nneka, is a sophomore there. However, Chiney Ogwumike said all of her three finalists had a completely clean slate and she based her decision on what was best for her. The 6-foot-3 forward indeed will be reunited with her sister in Palo Alto, Calif., but stressed the relationship is not the primary reason for her choice.
"I think people assume that," Ogwumike said in a telephone interview with ESPN HoopGurlz shortly before her signing. "I chose Stanford because it suited all my needs the most. It offered the best combination of athletics and academics.
"My sister left me completely out on the wing with this decision. We talk, but we didn't talk much about colleges. She wanted me to make a choice for my own reasons. Her being there was not the reason I chose Stanford at all. It was a tough decision and it was fiercely debated. Nneka is a big part of my life, but in the act of recruiting, I didn't look at her as my sister. I looked at her as a potential teammate. I looked at Notre Dame and said I could play with Skylar [Diggins]. I looked at Connecticut and said I could play with Maya [Moore]. I looked at Stanford and Nneka the same way."
Ogwumike saw it the same as her future coach, who called the sisters "great complements."
"They know each other's game, which is a big advantage," VanDerveer said of the sisters. "Chiney and Nneka are really different players. Chiney is very aggressive and versatile. It will obviously be an easier adjustment with her sister on the team. I think she'll do very well and the other recruits will do very well."
Stanford and Notre Dame went down to the wire on a top prospect during the early signing period for the second straight year. Last year, Skylar Diggins, the top-ranked point guard in the country, chose Notre Dame over Stanford. Ogwumike's choice of the Cardinal gives coach Tara VanDerveer a recruiting class among the country's top five. It also includes two other players ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz -- No. 18 Sara James of El Dorado Hills, Calif., and No. 60 Toni Kokenis of Hindsale, Ill.
The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Peter and Ify, who firmly emphasize education, Ogwumike said she wants to study some combination of law, business, policy and communications at Stanford. Asked if she planned to run for president some day, the playful Ogwumike replied, "Surely, I want to do something with my degree."
Peter Ogwumike owns and operates a technology firm, Automated Systems International (ASI), that does business in the U.S. and Nigeria. There are two younger Ogwumike sisters -- Erica, 12, and Olivia, 13 -- who also play basketball.
Though Stanford's academic reputation fed into family priorities, and Nneka's presence there made for easier logistics, her parents did not try to exert any influence on her decision, Chiney Ogwumike said. Anytime she believed she needed another visit or more information, they accommodated her.
"I felt a lot of pressure from everywhere," Ogwumike said. "I wanted to be fair to everyone, but this also is a decision for myself. I gave Notre Dame and UConn every consideration. I felt good about my bond with Geno [Auriemma]. That was the big thing with UConn. Notre Dame also was ideal. It is Catholic, family-oriented and small. Stanford had the best combination of all things, but I want people to understand it was not a get-go kind of thing [for Stanford].
Mindi Rice contributed to this report.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the Parade All-American Selection Committee, he formerly coached girl's club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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