|Nnemkadi Ogwumike has made a positive impact in her first European season with CCC Polkowice|
Hailed in some quarters as one of the best to have ever played women's college basketball, Nnemkadi Ogwumike parachuted into EuroLeague Women last October and has managed to live up to expectations.
After being crowned the number one draft pick and having completed her inaugural WNBA summer with LA Sparks, Ogwumike has proceeded to cement her place in the hearts of CCC Polkowice fans with her superb debut season helping clinch a play-off spot.
"Yes, I've enjoyed my debut season in Europe very much" the Texan told FIBAEurope.com correspondent Paul Nilsen.
"After travelling with USA Basketball [and] playing and living far away in different places, nothing is new.
"I've been traveling overseas since I was in diapers and I enjoy experiencing new places and cultures - especially if basketball is helping me experience these things.
"I'm learning a lot about myself. I'm becoming an adult, a professional. I know the type of people I want in my life and those I know will always be there. I have dreams I'd love to fulfill and, most importantly, never forgetting who I am is proving the best way to get there.
"My team is great and we've have had a pretty successful season, I'm looking forward to more great basketball in the play-offs," continued the forward.
"I spend a lot of time with my team-mates off the court, who have introduced me to the Polish culture. I'm really grateful for this great experience.
"Since the mid-season break, we came back with a different type of focus that has helped us win all but one game.
"I think after finally gelling and finding our chemistry as a team, we are very comfortable with each other and understand what we need to do to win."
Much of CCC Polkowice's success has been due to the contribution and impact of Ogwumike. Her headline numbers of 18.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game have been complimented nicely by her impressive shooting-range downtown, from where she is shooting 47.4%.
She said, "I've been working a lot on my outside shot. Before leaving the Sparks, I met with my coaches and they encouraged me to keep getting comfortable on the perimeter.
"I have been getting up a lot of extra shots and have a little bit more freedom on this team and am able to become more comfortable in game-time situations.
"It's all about confidence in myself in order to get my outside shot going or developing any new skills for that matter."
Playing with Polkowice has perhaps been less daunting, having already completed her widely anticipated first WNBA summer. Ogwumike insisted the plethora of plaudits handed to her in the wake of her stellar college career is now water under the bridge, having now made a successful transition to the pro-game.
She said, "I am honoured to be considered one of 'the best'.
"I put in a lot of work to help my team succeed and was able to play alongside some other of the NCAA's ‘best.' But college is over now. I had my time, enjoyed it, and I've moved on - I've moved on to set even higher goals for myself.
"My rookie pro-season was amazing. I was blessed to be selected by LA and hope to spend many more years with them. Aside from a beautiful place to live, my team and the organisation is more than I could have ever asked for.
|"I am honoured to be considered one of ‘the best'," says Nnemkadi Ogwumike |
"We saw a lot of success as a team and hope to keep this tradition alive.
"I consider expectations [to be] goals. So in a sense I had already held myself to a higher standard and just wanted to bring everything I had to offer to help the program.
"Some of the veterans offered handy advice about playing professionally" added the 22-year-old
"Other than that, I had so many resources and first-hand accounts from my own team-mates in LA.
"They all advised me to stay true to myself on and off the court and to work hard to improve for seasons to come.
"They all stressed the importance of not getting into any bad habits either. Everything that I was told I have taken as lawful suggestions and they've done nothing but help me."
So, are there any tangible differences between treading the boards on each side of The Pond? Spoken like a true veteran, Ogwumike insists its' only the environment off the court which distinguishes the respective experiences.
"Playing professionally is playing professionally no matter where you go" she insists.
"You're responsible for yourself and you're doing a job. The competition is always tough and much is expected of you whether you are playing for a WNBA Championship or the EuroLeague Women title.
"The only difference is traveling and experiencing different cultures. In both cases you have to make time for what is important and understand what you're there to do."
Ogwumike and her CCC Polkowice colleagues face Nadezhda next week in search of a place at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight.