Chiney Ogwumike ready for her return to Connecticut
NEW YORK (AP) — Chiney Ogwumike doesn't know what kind of reception she'll get from the Connecticut Sun fans when her new team, the Los Angeles Sparks, visits Uncasville on Thursday.
She'll understand if the fans boo her after she asked for a trade to Los Angeles in the offseason so she could play with her sister and further her career at ESPN.
"It's funny, it's a unique place to play, Mohegan," she told The Associated Press. "You're a former UConn player, you get celebrated. I'm not a UConn player, I'm a former Connecticut (Sun) player. I don't know if I'll get the Lindsay Whalen treatment. I'm not afraid of a couple boos if people are feeling that way. If people are showing emotion and boo or cheer, it means they care. I'll roll with the punches."
Ogwumike was drafted by the Sun with the No. 1 pick in 2014. In that same draft, the team traded Tina Charles to New York for the Liberty's No. 4 pick, Alyssa Thomas. Charles was booed by some fans in her first game back in Connecticut. Now she's usually given a warm ovation by the Sun faithful.
"I think after the dust settles people understand," Ogwumike said. "Even for Tina it's a different thing when people want to go back home versus do something that will help their other career. It's the first time it's happening, so people will feel different ways about it. In the long haul, in a couple years from now, people will understand. I think the Connecticut fans are great fans and some of the best in the world. However it goes, I'll still have love for them."
The two teams have already played once this season in Los Angeles, and Ogwumike was key in the victory, contributing 20 points and seven rebounds.
She's having a great time in Los Angeles with her new team and her sister Nneka. It's the first time they've lived in the same city for more than a few days since they were together in college at Stanford.
"We are in close proximity to each other, but let's get the record straight: We don't stay in the same apartment," Nneka Ogwumike said, laughing after practice earlier this week.
The duo lives in the same apartment complex with many of the other Sparks players. The two former No. 1 picks joke about meals. Nneka Ogwumike cooks while her younger sister orders out well.
"I don't cook really," Chiney Ogwumike said. "I'm trying. I'm still acclimating to a new city. My goal is to cook more."
Their chemistry on the court is also getting better. They hadn't played with each other since Nneka Ogwumike graduated college in 2012.
"We're almost two different players now. We are eight years removed from playing with each other," Nneka Oguwmike said. "In that time we have evolved as players. Of course we know each other well, but now you have to relearn a little about the differences we might have developed in skills."
Chiney Ogwumike knows that she always will have someone to turn to on the court if she's struggling or doesn't understand something.
"I think the best thing is the communication," she said. "If I'm confused I know exactly where to go to."