Wings' Ogunbowale: 'Politics' involved in Olympics selection

June 15, 2024, 11:29 PM

Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale told the "Nightcap" podcast in an episode released Thursday that she took her name out of the pool for the U.S. women's basketball Olympic team "months ago" and that she thinks "politics" goes into the selection of the squad.

The 12-member 5-on-5 women's team for the Paris Games was announced Tuesday. The players most talked about who didn't make it were  Indiana Fever rookie guard Caitlin Clark and Ogunbowale, who has been one of the top scorers in the league during her six WNBA seasons, all with Dallas.

"Me being me, I just felt the vibes," Ogunbowale said of how she thought she was being assessed by USA Basketball. "When it comes to that stuff, it really doesn't have much to do with your game. It's really about who they feel like fits with the team. That's on the men's side, too.

"The committees say they look for people who ... I don't know, honestly. But I could already tell. I actually took my name out of the pool months ago. With the pool, it's a big commitment. If I know they're not picking me, I'm not going to keep going to these [camps] when I know the vibe. I'm not going to give you my time if I know the vibe."

Speaking to podcast hosts Shannon Sharpe and Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson, Ogunbowale said there's so much talent in the WNBA that several players could be Olympians.

"It's subjective who they think should be on the team; everybody's great in the WNBA," she said. "So who they choose is who they choose, I can't really control that."

The guard position has a lot of depth on this Olympic team. It's led by six-time Olympian Diana Taurasi of  Phoenix and two-time Olympians Jewell Loyd ( Seattle), Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum (all with  Las Vegas). The other guard on the U.S. team is New York's Sabrina Ionescu, who is in her first Olympics.

Ogunbowale is the top-scoring guard in the WNBA. Her 24.9 points per game is second only to Aces forward  A'ja Wilson's 28.0. Wilson will play in her second Olympics.

Over the years, some players have said they believed college and pro connections could factor into who made the U.S. team. Ogunbowale won a national championship at Notre Dame in 2018 and was the fifth pick in the 2019 WNBA draft.

"I can't really speak to USA Basketball in general," Ogunbowale said. "But just when I think of women's basketball ... politics is always surrounding it. Whether that's USA Basketball, All-Star teams, [All-WNBA] first team, there's politics. There's politics in everything."

A USA Basketball official confirmed to ESPN on Saturday that Ogunbowale did take her name out of consideration for the Olympics. USA Basketball did not have any comment on Ogunbowale's remarks about "politics" being part of the selection.

In an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, USA Basketball selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti said the sole criteria for choosing the Olympians is putting together the best possible team. She said things such as where a player went to college, what pro team she is on or her age were not talked about by the six-member committee.

"What we would discuss was the player's body of work and why they deserved to be on the team," Rizzotti said.

If they are selected as All-Stars, Ogunbowale and Clark both could have a chance to face the Olympians before they go to Paris. The WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix on July 20 will match the U.S. team against a team of other WNBA All-Stars.

That was also the case in 2021 and Ogunbowale won All-Star MVP honors with 26 points as Team WNBA beat Team USA 93-85 in Las Vegas.