LA Sparks Select Pac-12 Star Ogwumike With Top Pick in WNBA Draft

April 16, 2012

The Los Angeles Sparks took a major step toward reclaiming the WNBA title, selecting Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike with the first overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft. The 6’2” forward, who led the Stanford Cardinal to four straight NCAA Final Four appearances, is expected to form a lethal duo with Sparks' veteran Candace Parker, provided Parker can stay healthy.

“It’s one of the highest accolades that I’ve received,” said Ogwumike, following her selection. “I’m so happy that I’m here, and I’m very grateful for my university, my coaches, my teammates – everybody who supported me. And I’m especially grateful for the L.A. Sparks for picking me.”

Ogwumike is coming off a stellar senior season, averaging a double-double of 22.5 points and 10.2 rebounds, in addition to 1.1 blocks, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. She was named 2011-2012 Pac-12 Player of the Year, All-Pac-12 First Team, and Pac-12 Tournament MOP, while leading the conference in scoring, defensive rebounds and free-throw percentage.

“Nneka will be a great addition to our team,” Sparks Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler said. “She has great leadership skills that match her top-notch work ethic. She can do a little of everything – rebound, shoot, run the floor and defend. She will be a great teammate to help us make our run for the WNBA Championship.”

Shekinna Stricklen of Tennessee, selected second by the Seattle Storm, and Devereaux Peters of Notre Dame, tapped by the defending champion Minnesota Lynx, rounded out the top three picks.

Stricklen, a versatile player who earned AP All-America Third Team honors, is excited to join an already talent-laden team.

“There’re a lot of veterans – Sue Bird, Tina Thompson and Lauren Jackson – who can really help me get better in my game,” said Stricklen. “I still need a lot of improvement. With my personality, that I’m willing to learn, to listen real well and pay attention, I’m really looking forward to that and I’m really looking forward to playing with them.”

With the fourth and fifth selections in the first round, the Tulsa Shock chose Glory Johnson from Tennessee and the San Antonio Silver Stars took Shenise Johnson from Miami. 

The Lynx entered the day with six selections in the three-round draft, the most of any team. Minnesota, which last year used the No. 1 overall pick to draft Connecticut star Maya Moore and went on to win the first WNBA title in franchise history, closed out the first round by selecting Brazilian Damiris Dantas with the 12th overall pick.

Peters enters the WNBA fresh off of consecutive NCAA title games with Notre Dame. A defensive stalwart, Peters earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors each of the past two seasons. Peters missed large portions of her first three seasons at Notre Dame due to two ACL injuries and three related surgeries.

“It’s amazing,” said Peters, after she was tapped with the third pick. “I just never thought I’d be at that point. Everyone wanted to talk about my knees and how they affected me, but just to come this far and have two and a half years where I get to play and be on the team and be free from injury – it’s great to finally see all your dreams come to fruition.”

With three second round selections in the first four picks, the Sparks also drafted Farhiya Abdi from Sweden with the #13 pick, Khadijah Rushdan from Rutgers with the #15 pick, and Tyra White from Texas A&M with the #16 pick. With the 28th overall and final selection for Los Angeles, the Sparks took April Sykes from Rutgers.

Abdi is a 6’2 forward who averaged 14.6 points, 7 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.7 assists in 29 games in the 2011-12 Czech Republic league. She has also competed in the 2011 U20 European Championships, and the 2011-2012 Euroleague.

Rushdan, a 5’9” guard, just finished her senior season at Rutgers, averaging 13 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. The Delaware native was a Wade Trophy finalist and was named to the All-Big East First Team. She led her Scarlet Knights in assists and tied for the lead in points with Sykes.

White, a 6’0” guard, averaged 13.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists for Texas A&M in her senior season. The Missouri native was named the Final Four MOP when she led her Aggies over Notre Dame for the NCAA National Championship. White was named First Team All-Big 12 in 2012.

Sykes, a 6’0” combo guard/forward, averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. She was named All-Big East Second Team last season.

The complete draft order follows below:

First Round
1. Nnemkadi Ogwumike (L.A. Sparks)
2. Shekinna Stricklen (Seattle Storm)
3. Devereaux Peters (Minnesota Lynx)
4. Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock)
5. Shenise Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars)
6. Samantha Prahalis (Phoenix Mercury)
7. Kelley Cain (New York Liberty)
8. Natalie Novosel (Washington Mystics)
9. Astan Dabo (Connecticut Sun)
10. LaSondra Barrett (Washington Mystics)
11. Sasha Goodlett (Indiana Fever)
12. Damiris Dantas (Minnesota Lynx)

Second Round
13. Farhiya Abdi (L.A. Sparks)
14. Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream)
15. Khadijah Rushdan (L.A. Sparks)
16. Tyra White (L.A. Sparks)
17. Riquna Williams (Tulsa Shock)
18. Julie Wojta (Minnesota Lynx)
19. Kayla Standish (Minnesota Lynx)
20. Nika Baric (Minnesota Lynx)
21. Chay Shegog (Connecticut Sun)
22. Keisha Hampton (Seattle Storm)
23. Shey Peddy (Chicago Sky)
24. C'eira Ricketts (Phoenix Mercury)

Third Round
25. Vicki Baugh (Tulsa Shock)
26. Anjale Barrett (Washington Mystics)
27. Sydney Carter (Chicago Sky)
28. April Sykes (L.A. Sparks)
29. Lynetta Kizer (Tulsa Shock)
30. Christine Flores (Phoenix Mercury)
31. Jacki Gemelos (Minnesota Lynx)
32. Isabelle Yacoubou (Atlanta Dream)
33. Amanda Johnson (Phoenix Mercury)
34. Courtney Hurt (Indiana Fever)
35. Briana Gilbreath (Washington Mystics)
36. Katelan Redmon (New York Liberty)

By Staff of The Daily Sports Herald and Wire Reports

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