Midway by means of their second WNBA season, Napheesa Collier and Arike Ogunbowale are still the category of the 2019 draft.
Collier, taken by the Lynx with the sixth decide earlier than final season, is the reigning rookie of the 12 months. In a primary 12 months marked by regular play, she led the league in minutes for the Lynx who, maybe surprisingly, made the playoffs for a ninth straight season.
After a comparatively sluggish begin this season, Collier has kicked it into a brand new gear of late, with middle Sylvia Fowles out with a calf harm. Collier has 47 factors on 16-for-27 capturing with 27 rebounds and six assists in the previous two video games to elevate the Lynx to 7-Three, tying them for third in the WNBA.
Ogunbowale was taken by the Dallas Wings fifth total final 12 months, proper earlier than Collier. She led all rookies in scoring as a quantity shooter — and scorer — on a staff that wanted each one in all her factors. This 12 months she leads the league in scoring (21.5). In her previous two video games, she is 21-for-33 total, 10 of 13 on three-pointers, for 55 factors.
The Lynx and Wings meet for the primary time this season Wednesday on the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The Wings are Four-7 after Ogunbowale hit 13 of 19 photographs and scored 33 factors towards Phoenix to assist her staff break a three-game shedding streak.
“Arike is certainly the flash,” ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo stated. “So much speed and explosiveness. Phee is more smooth, change of pace. They’re both effective, but in different ways. They were the cream of the rookie crop last year. This year some other players from that group are emerging. But those two have continued to shine.”
Both gamers have needed to do extra due to accidents. The Lynx misplaced Karima Christmas-Kelly for the season with an Achilles harm. Fowles has battled a sore calf. Both Shenise Johnson and Rachel Banham have missed time with hamstring points. Dallas will play Wednesday with out guard Moriah Jefferson and rookie Satou Sabally.
And each have answered the decision.
Collier’s play final week because the Lynx went 2-1 earned her Western Conference participant of the week honors. By her personal admission she was urgent early. In a one-on-one dialog, coach Cheryl Reeve instructed her to play extra freely.
“I took it to heart,” Collier stated. “I felt stressed during the games. I wasn’t playing freely, I was worrying about other things. When she said that it kinda kicked me into gear to let loose and play basketball the way I know how to play basketball. Not overthink things.”
Ogunbowale has continued to attain, however has gotten extra environment friendly because the season has progressed. Last season she averaged 19.1 factors, capturing 38.eight%. This 12 months: 21.5 factors on 44.1% capturing.
Katie Lou Samuelson performed with Collier at Connecticut. She was taken by Chicago with the fourth total decide final season. Now she’s with Dallas, enjoying with Ogunbowale.
“For us, Arike just does everything she needs to do,” Samuelson stated. “Coming off last season, she’s getting a lot more attention defensively. Last year she kind of came out guns firing and played awesome. But this year she’s had to work every single game. … Phee is really the kind of player who, even at UConn, was so consistent from Day 1. She knows what she can do, what she wants to do on the court against anyone. It doesn’t faze her who she’s playing against.”
Collier has upped her scoring from 13.1 to 14.9 from final 12 months to this 12 months, her rebounds from 6.6 to 9.zero and her assists from 2.6 to three.Three. She is the Lynx’s solely wholesome captain and has tried onerous to develop into extra vocal.
To Reeve, Collier’s effectiveness as a captain is simple to see. She works more durable than anybody else — and she’s humble. Against New York on Saturday, after hitting a three-pointer, Collier did a little bit shoulder shimmy as she ran down the court docket.
“That was the must humble shimmy in the history of sports,” Reeve stated. “That’s just the epitome of Phee. Humility goes a long way, and her tremendous work ethic.”