On this October day in South Bend, each move have to be crisp, each minimize full pace. Notre Dame’s gamers dash up and down, whipping passes sooner, sooner, sooner on this full-court observe drill. Then one participant screws up; she tosses an overhead move that’s deflected.
Players drop to the ground to carry a 30-second core plank for punishment. Even Muffet McGraw, the 62-year-old Hall of Fame coach, is planking. Teeth clenched, McGraw would not permit her navy sweatpants and light-weight blue polo to graze the ground even for a second.
Arike Ogunbowale appears to be like irritated. About-to-take-over-the-game irritated. Arike Mode is thrilling and terrifying, relying on which group you play for. The 5’8” senior All-American cruises down the court docket and slices her approach by three gamers to complete on the rim.
After that, she pretends she’s about to drive in once more, however she rapidly stops for a pull-up, draining a protracted two. Her follow-through lingers as she leaves her proper hand cupped down. She leans again, bouncing one, two, 3 times off of her proper foot, very a lot anticipating the ball to drop in.
Of course she does. She is essentially the most clutch playmaker in girls’s school basketball. She drained two game-winning buzzer-beaters within the 2018 Final Four in March—the primary in opposition to Connecticut, the second in opposition to Mississippi State—to steer the Fighting Irish to their first nationwide title since 2001.
“The basketball court docket is a stage for her,” says Greg Ogunbowale, her father. “This is the place she’s most comfy.”
She might miss seven straight however nonetheless be satisfied she’ll hit the eighth. She additionally stands agency in her choices. McGraw describes what makes Arike, Arike, with the next hypothetical: If she ordered her to throw the ball into the publish however the publish participant was immediately double-teamed, Ogunbowale would defy the command. She’d pull up for a shot as an alternative of forcing the move. And if McGraw confronted her, Ogunbowale would inform the reality: The publish wasn’t open anymore.
“I like her swagger,” McGraw says. “I want extra girls would have it.”
The Arike Show would not permit for a lot of intermissions. So when a play breaks down on at the present time in observe and her teammates pause, the ball rolls out of bounds. Ogunbowale screams: “KEEP PLAYING! DON’T STOP!” Then she grabs the ball and muscular tissues her method to the basket.
The basketball court docket is a stage for her. This is the place she’s most comfy.
—Arike’s father, Greg Ogunbowale
She has discovered a lane to the ring since childhood, battling boys in her Milwaukee neighborhood in each basketball and soccer. Little Arike would dip her shoulder, operating full pace forward, and boys would virtually fly off of her once they bumped into her steely body.
“Sometimes she’d be the one tackling,” says Dare Ogunbowale, her older brother. She spent hours enjoying with him in addition to Mario, her different older brother.
If she obtained tackled, she’d leap again up, take off operating and go at whoever was in her approach.
“I’m all the time in assault mode,” Ogunbowale says. “I do not actually maintain again.”
She discovered that mentality from her two favorites, Kobe Bryant (she named her Goldendoodle “Kobi” after him) and Russell Westbrook.
“They have that mentality each time they go on the court docket that no person can guard them, no person can cease them however themselves,” she says. “I am going out pondering that—that no person can cease me.”
“I all the time suppose I’m the perfect participant on the court docket. Whether that is true or not, that is what I’m going to consider. Really, no person can inform me in any other case.”
A number of hours earlier than observe, Ogunbowale zips round Notre Dame’s campus on her blue Razor scooter. Her smile is massive and vibrant as she breezes previous Corbett Family Hall. The 21-year-old prefers the scooter to her Ford Edge. The scooter is Arike: cool, spunky, enjoyable.
She is the in-and-out crossover, the reverse layup. Hang time and the additional dime. More usually than not, she’s carrying new Jordans. Some teammates ship her screenshots of potential on-line clothes purchases, looking for her approval.
Students are generally intimidated by her, by the conviction in her stroll. It’s the best way her shoulders are pressed again, by no means slumping; certain of herself however not boastful. It’s her charisma, her kindness. The approach she appears to be like strangers within the eye when chatting with them. The heat, informal “Hey, what’s up?” she gives teammates when strolling to class.
“When you are with Arike, every little thing’s good,” says senior guard Marina Mabrey, her shut buddy.
Phil McCarten/Associated Press/Associated Press
Little women and boys used to line up for her autograph for an hour after her video games at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, particularly after she dropped 55 factors within the state semifinal. She was so fatigued within the dwindling seconds of that recreation that she could not stand on her personal two legs. Her teammates helped her stroll to the free-throw line. She swished each for the win.
“She was born to play in these large video games and have these large moments,” says Jeff Worzella, her former coach at Divine Savior. “She’s so clutch, you are type of caught off guard when she misses. It’s powerful to recollect she’s human.”
Fans would even peek into her practices for North Tartan’s AAU group simply to get a glimpse; simply to say good day to her and see what she may say again. And she handled every individual as in the event that they had been a buddy or a cousin.
“She’s obtained slightly little bit of that Magic Johnson character,” says Greg Dietel, her former North Tartan coach. “She is aware of she’s good. She performs like she’s good. But she does it in a approach that individuals get pleasure from watching and cheering and rooting for her. It is not one thing that turns folks off. It attracts folks to her.”
Nowadays, Ogunbowale has morphed right into a nationwide celeb. She appeared on Ellen, the place Kobe made a shock look to provide her a signed jersey for herself and a mini signed jersey for her canine. She was additionally a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.
The buzz remains to be evident right here at McAlister’s Deli, a sandwich chain a brief distance from campus. She orders a Caesar salad. Three totally different waitresses scurry forwards and backwards 5 instances inside 30 minutes to ask how her salad is. Does she want anything? Another refill? If her glass of ice water was a T-shirt, it might be an XXL; she hadn’t come near ending it. But the ladies saved returning, type and keen to speak to her.
Ogunbowale smiles. She is used to this. Humbled by this. Still shocked by this, by the best way folks whisper: “Is that Arike?! Is that Arike?!” whereas she’s consuming at eating places along with her household.
“It’s positively loopy,” she says because the shiny cross dangling from her neck catches the sunshine. “I met plenty of totally different folks, been to plenty of locations, obtained to expertise plenty of various things. But I’m additionally not the kind of individual that will get too excessive.
“It’s not like I really feel like I’m residing on this fantasy world. I’m nonetheless myself. I’m nonetheless common. Amazing issues have occurred to me due to basketball, however I positively did not change my character, my character, my ego. It’s all the identical.”
But it is not. She’s keenly conscious that she’s a model now. A character. And as passionate as she is on the ground and as effervescent as she is off of it, part of her is introverted and personal. She would not open up a lot, not even to McGraw.
She can also be attempting to share her shine. This summer time, Ogunbowale threw out the primary pitch at a Brewers recreation. The White Sox wished her to do it, too, however she let senior ahead Jessica Shepard do it as an alternative.
Amazing issues have occurred to me due to basketball, however I positively did not change my character, my character, my ego. It’s all the identical.
“I’m certain she’d moderately simply be within the background, simply doing her factor and never being within the highlight,” says Niele Ivey, affiliate head coach. “Just being Arike.”
Arike insists she would not really feel any stress. As lengthy as she has a Spalding, she’s zen. She simply needs to dwell as much as the title her dad and mom gave her, which is a Yoruba title meaning “one thing that you just see and cherish.” Fame or not, she’s nonetheless the identical girl who screams like a five-year-old when watching horror films and who battles her mom, Yolanda, at Uno with the depth of a match recreation.
As levelheaded as her daughter appears amid her rising fame heading into her senior yr, Yolanda nonetheless usually reminds Arike that “you may not realize it, however any individual is all the time watching you. Always.”
Before the UConn shot, earlier than the Mississippi State shot, there was one other shot. One simply as gutsy, simply as decisive. But Arike was not Arike then; she was a wide-eyed sophomore who had solely simply begun to regulate to starter’s minutes.
But when Notre Dame trailed Stanford by one with 2.three seconds left within the 2017 NCAA match Elite Eight, McGraw considered one participant to show to.
“Arike,” McGraw mentioned, within the huddle. “I would like you to take the shot.”
Ogunbowale blinked and nodded as her coach diagrammed a play. She was ecstatic and prepared however had one query: “Do you need me to catch and shoot or would you like me to place it on the ground?”
“You gotta really feel it,” McGraw mentioned. “If you wanna put it on the ground, drive it, no matter. You make the play. The ball is coming to you.“
Ogunbowale caught the ball and raced into the lane. SMACK! Stanford’s Erica McCall blocked her shot. The buzzer sounded. There was no confetti for her, no dogpiling her. Sure, prior group errors like missed box-outs and turnovers put the Fighting Irish on this state of affairs, however nonetheless. In the dwindling seconds, Arike did not ship (although she did end with 25 factors).
The miss and the loss stung all summer time. “She was devastated,” Ivey says. “She took that to coronary heart. Her mindset fully shifted after that second.”
But then she let it go. She did not dwell on it. She erased it prefer it by no means occurred. Like it did not eat her up for 3 muggy weeks in South Bend. She spent extra hours within the health club and weight room than she had earlier than, changing into even stronger.
She got here again to campus final yr with a distinct air about her. “She understood, ‘I’ve to be the one,'” Ivey says. “She was ready for these [game-winning] photographs as a result of she failed earlier than.”
She was additionally ready as a result of she had lengthy waited to be “the one.” Ogunbowale described her freshman yr as “rocky.” As probably the most sought-after recruits within the nation, she was accustomed to being the perfect participant on the ground. She by no means got here out of the sport as a excessive schooler, entertaining the group by getting a woman within the air with a fast pretend after which twisting her physique to complete with an up-and-under off the glass.
“She was doing issues you do not see highschool women do,” says Scott Witt, who coached her throughout her first three years at Divine Savior. “She was so superior. Just in one other world.”
In school, although, everybody was simply nearly as good as her, if not higher. And there have been seniors forward of her. Most importantly, they performed protection and he or she did not. She was instinctive and so used to blowing by anybody that she did not must play in a cerebral approach. The recreation was simply too simple.
But McGraw wished her to suppose conditions by; to not simply reply “I do not know” when requested why a transfer labored or did not work. To not simply come down and shoot it, however survey all of her choices.
Coming off the bench was troublesome for Ogunbowale. “I used to be on her fairly onerous I might say on a regular basis,” McGraw says, “as a result of I might see what her potential was, and he or she wasn’t reaching it.”
But her confidence wasn’t shaken. McGraw preferred the way it wasn’t; how in another way she reacted from most gamers in such a state of affairs. Ogunbowale thought she ought to be enjoying. Not in an boastful or dismissive approach, however in a resolute approach. Ogunbowale knew she had weaknesses to deal with, however she was so aggressive, she burned to play each second of the sport.
Robert Franklin/Associated Press
“I might have gone to a different faculty, began freshman yr, averaged 20 factors a recreation, however I would not have been studying and I would not be getting higher,” Ogunbowale says.
She tried to remain affected person, usually turning to recommendation from her brother Dare, who walked on to the soccer group his first yr at University of Wisconsin and ultimately turned a group captain. He advised her to belief the method, that issues weren’t going to be handed to her. She wasn’t entitled to something. She by no means has been.
The first day six-year-old Arike confirmed as much as her brothers’ peewee soccer observe, she got here in a grey hooded sweatshirt that was so massive, it lined her face and physique. It was chilly outdoors. She stood on the sideline watching spiral after spiral till her little palms started throwing the soccer and catching it.
A father on the sideline noticed her and requested her for the ball. He tossed it to her and he or she leapt up and caught it. But she jumped so excessive that her hoodie fell off.
The father paused. He did not perceive what he was seeing. “Hell no, she’s a woman!” the daddy shouted, surprised. “She’s a woman!”
Little Arike had the most important smile on her face— a got-out-of-school-early-and-even-got-some-ice-cream type of smile. She had received the day. And she would maintain doing so, enduring bumps and bruises as she reached the tip zone.
She performed soccer competitively, too, dancing previous women with agile footwork. On the basketball court docket, she wished to be in every single place and do every little thing—the one capturing it, the one passing it.
When she’d battle Dare one-on-one, absorbing each foul he’d ship, she’d make and-1s to spite him. She would not shrink.
“She was the one which was bullying us, making enjoyable of us,” he says. “She knew she was simply nearly as good as anyone.”
Maybe that got here from Yolanda, who coached Arike’s youth basketball groups. Yolanda was a pitcher for DePaul University’s softball group, and he or she’s as aggressive as they arrive. She’d train her children the significance of getting a short-term reminiscence. She’d inform them unhealthy issues will occur; you may lose, however you all the time have one other likelihood. Another shot.
Arike was enjoying up an age group, and although she was sturdy, she was not the tallest. Yolanda would inform her to carry her floor. “You’re not the one Arike out right here,” Yolanda would say. “There are plenty of women who’re higher than you. You should separate your self from them.”
Her father, Greg, who played soccer and rugby and later served in the Nigerian army, also instilled discipline. He stressed touching the line when running a suicide, even when no one was watching. “The way you practice is the way you’re going to play,” Greg would say. “No cheating, no shortcuts.”
Greg and Yolanda kept Arike grounded, even as she would later attract large crowds at her high school games. “They always told me the things people didn’t tell me,” Arike says. “They always criticized me after every game. I could have 30 points and they’ll tell me the things I did wrong. That definitely helped me.”
Arike often thinks about this now that strangers tell her how clutch she is. They tell her they saw her on TV. They tell her she has the Mamba mentality. They tell her she’s the most exciting women’s collegiate player they’ve seen in a while.
But her parents don’t tell her those things. Yolanda even cut off Arike’s iPhone for three days last season after she didn’t answer her mom’s call one day. (It’s unlike Arike to not answer the phone.)
That same day, Yolanda remembers, Notre Dame lost badly to Louisville, 100-67. Arike didn’t have much energy. The spunk was gone. Arike was gone. She was held to five points on 2-of-9 shooting in 33 minutes.
She felt like she let her team down.
It would be the catalyst for her best season yet, as she went on to average 20.8 points a game.
She also averaged 6.3 points within the fourth quarter on 53.5 p.c capturing. Her 791 factors had been essentially the most for a single season in class historical past.
Some coaches and gamers giggle on the iPhone story. It’s only one purpose why they weren’t fearful that all the offseason fame would go to Arike’s head. They knew her household would not let that occur.
“It would not matter what folks say about you,” Arike says. “You all the time know what it’s essential to know from your loved ones.”
Most practices, Notre Dame does a drill referred to as “Perfect Offense.” Players have 5 straight possessions to attain twice, all of the whereas executing each single element of the possession completely. That consists of screens, rebounds, cuts and having somebody again for security. Players cannot flip the ball over, and there have to be a minimal of three to 4 passes. Three rebounders have to be within the lane always.
The drill can generally take far longer than supposed. Executing the sequence with precision is grueling. Players hate this drill. Absolutely dread this drill.
Ron Schwane/Associated Press/Associated Press
She loves it. Loves how little room for error there’s and the way excessive the stakes are. There are all the time penalties, all the time extra sprints. “We’re going to get it in 5,” she usually tells her teammates earlier than the drill begins.
She leads the best way in methods she did not used to. She finds fast alternatives to dish a move to teammates, constructing on her 105 assists final season, up from 69 the yr earlier than. “You should be in your toes,” says Colleen Scott, a former highschool teammate. “You all the time have to observe Arike when she has the ball. She’ll discover you.”
You may also see her sliding on protection with an depth she hasn’t displayed earlier than. She was not as dedicated to that finish of the ground the previous couple of years. But McGraw was not too long ago watching movie and noticed Arike greater than tending to her particular person project. She was virtually flying throughout the ground, rotating to totally different assignments, energizing the group protection.
“Man, she’s working more durable than anyone on the defensive facet proper now,” McGraw mentioned to herself.
And you’ll be able to hear Arike extra, too. Neither loud nor quiet, Arike has all the time led by instance. But now she’s beginning to communicate up. Starting to appreciate there are freshmen who wish to her not simply to take massive photographs, however lead an offense.
“I inform her this on a regular basis: This group goes to go as you go,” Ivey says. “They comply with you.”
Mirin Fader is a Writer-At-Large for B/R Mag. She’s written for the Orange County Register, espnW.com, SI.com and Slam. Her work has been honored by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Follow her on Twitter:@MirinFader.