Coming into the 2014 season, there was quite a bit of talk about other players possibly being more ready to play the WNBA game and it even seemed to get back to Chiney:
"I didn't expect to go No. 1," Chiney Ogwumike told The Chronicle. "I hoped so, but anything can happen in a draft. I was definitely a little stressed out. Nneka kept saying, 'Don't worry. Don't worry.' "
Whether she truly paid attention to the comments from outsiders or not is up for debate, but one thing is for sure: Chiney proved all her doubters wrong. And she did so to the tune of 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 54% per outing in just under 30 minutes per game: all good for first on her team.
Chiney's last two seasons at Stanford seems to have played a huge role in preparing her for this level. After the graduation of big sister Nneka, Chiney was consistently looked upon as being the whole Stanford team and teams approached it in that manner. Ogwumike saw double and triple teams on the regular and still was able to produce and carry her team to Elite Eight and Final Four appearance during her junior and senior seasons, respectively. Needless to say, she came into the season THE MOST PREPARED ROOKIE and proved it.
Chiney was vital to this Sun team winning 12 games this season. She produced from the start and continued that way, making her the seventh of the last nine first overall draft picks to end up winning Rookie of the Year.
Here are the voting results for the Rookie of the Year race:
|23||Chiney Ogwumike||Connecticut Sun|
|12||Odyssey Sims||Tulsa Shock|
|2||Kayla McBride San||Antonio Stars|
|1||Shoni Schimmel||Atlanta Dream
Top four picks make All-Rookie team
Odyssey Sims, who finished second with 12 votes, had a fantastic finish to the season as she teamed with second year sensation Skylar Diggins, who was recently named the 2014 Most Improved Player in the WNBA while garnering her first all-star nod. The fantastic backcourt carried Tulsa to its most wins since the franchise relocated but their youth and the team's lack of a defensive identity kept them dry in terms of playoff berths in the BOK Center.
Ogwumike's winning character shines in rookie year
Following her sister's lead from the very first time she picked up the ball has helped Chiney Ogwumike develop into a 2014 Rookie of the Year and potentially one of the best interior players in the league.
Kayla McBride, the third overall pick behind Ogwumike and Sims, nabs a wing spot on the 2014 All-Rookie team after averaging 13 points a night, leading the San Antonio Stars for the season. Sliding straight into the starting wing spot at the three, and possibly the two next season now that Becky Hammon is officially retired, :( McBride was the third best three point shooter on the best three point shooting team in the league, knocking down just under 40% of her threes on the season, good for sixth-best in the WNBA.
Bria Hartley fills the final guard spot on the WNBA's All-Rookie team and if you've read any of my rookie rankings this season, you know that I'm excited about this player and ecstatic that she was rewarded for her fantastic play. Hartley's numbers aren't eye-popping: 9.7 points, 3.1 assists on only 38% shooting but she played a major role on a team that overachieved this season.
Hartley seemed destined to sit behind veterans Kara Lawson and Ivory Latta and learn this season but ended up starting 29 games. Mike Thibault also let Hartley play through her mistakes this season, which could prove key for her development going forward considering playing the toughest position to transition to in the WNBA. Any skepticism of the opportunity for Hartley? Consider this: She had a MUCH better first season than that of Skylar Diggins.
Alyssa Thomas, the number 4 overall pick by the New York Liberty before being shipped to Connecticut in the Tina Charles trade, took advantage of the injuries to Allison Hightower and Danielle McCray and made the most of her opportunity to start. Playing in all 34 games, Thomas started 28 and finished the season with averages of 10.0 points, 5.1 boards on 43% shooting in 27.3 minutes a game. A key going forward for Thomas will be her development. Will she transition and become a full-time, starting 4? Or will she finally add a jumpshot and take advantage of her unlimited potential? After going 1-5 from three on the season and essentially being left unguarded in the half-court, Thomas has some decisions to make.
And here are the results for the players who made the 2014 WNBA All-Rookie Team:
|Chiney Ogwumike||Connecticut Sun||Forward||11|
|Odyssey Sims||Tulsa Shock||Guard||11|
|Kayla McBride||San Antonio Stars||Guard/Forward||11|
|Bria Hartley||Washington Mystics||Guard||9|
|Alyssa Thomas||Connecticut Sun||Forward||7|