WNBA Nneka Ogwumike Blocking Objections Will Miss Olympics

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Basketball fans can see plenty of Nneka Ogwumike on the big and small screen this summer. A member of the evil Goon Squad in the movie “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” which premiered on Friday. And last season, he was featured in the ESPN documentary “144,” which chronicles life in a bubble for the WNBA’s 144 players.

But one place Ogwumike might not be seen is the field at the Tokyo Olympics unless FIBA, the sport’s international governing body, issues an 11th-hour appeal in a dispute over which national team he can play for.

After Ogwumike was denied a spot on the USA team, Ogwumike and his sister Chiney, both former WNBA #1 picks and Nigerian-Americans, applied to compete for Nigeria in a decision that shocked the basketball world. .

FIBA denied Nneka’s request, citing his “significant involvement” with USA Basketball. Having spent significantly less time on the US national team, Chiney Ogwumike was cleared to play for Nigeria as a naturalized citizen.

Erica Ogwumike, another sister of Nneka and Chiney and a former star of Rice who is currently in medical school, was allowed to play for Nigeria with no conditions.

Nneke Ogwumike, still out with a knee sprain when the USA Basketball team selection was announced, was the only non-Olympic roster winner of the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player Award.

Born and raised in Texas, the Ogwumike brothers hold dual citizenship as their parents Peter and Ify were born in Nigeria.

“I made fun of Nneka and said, ‘Hey, you play for Nigeria, call me and I’ll coach,'” said VanDerveer, the coach with the most wins in women’s college basketball. “There’s no better player on your team than an Ogwumike. They are absolute winners. I’ve never had a bad day coaching either of them and I’ve been tough on both of them. They’re just incredible people and incredible players.”

In WNBA circles and beyond, the sentiment is the same.

“I think Nneka deserves everything she puts her heart into, whether it’s about continuing with USA Basketball in the future or continuing with the Nigeria national team,” said Sue Bird, who played in her fifth Olympics. “There is nobility either way, and if you know that Nneka will follow her heart, it will be well-intentioned and it will be the right move for her and I think we all support that no matter what.”

FIBA’s refusal of Nneka’s request is a tough pill for the family to swallow. Despite giving a lot to the USA national team, he may be watching both teams from home.

Ogwumike’s objection is based on the governing body’s regulations that allow exceptions “in terms of the development of basketball.” Team USA coach Dawn Staley said Nigeria is currently ranked 17th in the world and the addition of Ogwumikes would make the country a medal contender. It will also provide a huge boost to a continent that has never won an Olympic medal in men’s or women’s basketball.

“I hope FIBA ​​lets him play for how much he has given to the game and how hard he has worked for it,” said Staley. “I hope he can check if he’s Olympian on his list.”

But there is not much time. The United States and Nigeria meet in an exhibition game in Las Vegas on Sunday and the women’s basketball Olympic opening game on July 27. The players’ lawyer, Howard Jacobs, also petitioned the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who was also the final referee. Global sports disputes if FIBA ​​does not change its initial decision.

FIBA has a history of purging American players to compete for other countries, such as Becky Hammon for Russia and Courtney Vandersloot for Hungary, but neither spent as much time with the senior national team as Nneka Ogwumike did with the USA.

Ogwumike, 31, has been a part of USA Basketball for almost half of his life. He was named MVP of the 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament, finished second on Team USA in scoring and rebounds in 2019-20, and has attended every Team USA training camp for the past few years. Many believed he should have made the Olympic team in 2012 and 2016.

Staley, who was not part of the five-player selection committee, said Ogwumike’s left knee sprain, which he suffered on June 2, was the reason he was not selected. However, based on the injury recovery timeline, Ogwumike is expected to be in good health for Olympic competition. The prognosis was similar for Diana Taurasi, who missed nearly a month with a breastbone fracture and a recent hip injury that kept her away from Wednesday’s team’s exhibition match, but was still selected to compete in her fifth Olympics.

Current and former WNBA and NBA players and coaches have expressed their anger on social media and in interviews after the US team’s announcement. Some have criticized the University of Connecticut’s impact on staffing.

Two-time Olympic champion Candace Parker, who removed herself from the national team evaluation after leaving the 2016 team, said: “How many times are we going to say this isn’t politics? I think we all know that.

“This is why I’m commenting in Tokyo,” he added, referring to his role as part of NBC’s broadcast team for the Olympics.

Geno Auriemma, head coach of UConn’s women’s team, is a member of the selection committee and coached the Olympic team in 2012 and 2016. The current 12-man roster includes five ex-Huskies, including Bird, Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles and Napheesa. collier

“What I found funny was that the two times I was a coach, it was ‘UConn politics, UConn bias’ because I was the coach,” Auriemma recently told reporters.

Noting that he is no longer a coach, Auriemma said: “Wherever I am, whoever you don’t like on the team it’s his fault.”

VanDerveer said he doesn’t believe coaches should serve multiple Olympic cycles or be an ongoing part of the selection process.

“I don’t think a person should have that much influence, control, or power in making decisions,” VanDerveer said. “Because then things get crooked. This is USA Basketball and it has to represent the United States.”

Referring to Uconn’s colors, VanDerveer added: “Red is white and blue, not White and blue.”

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