Notre Dame women secure another top guard in Arike Ogunbowale

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

With national signing day on the horizon and only one more 24th day of the month remaining, Friday was sure to be a big day, a special day, for one of the nation’s top high school girls basketball players.

Arike Ogunbowale has long worn No. 24 in honor of her favorite player, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. So she decided awhile back that it would be cool to make her college choice on the 24th day of a month.

But she was too busy with basketball in June or July to end her college recruitment, and wasn’t quite ready in August or September. With only a few weeks remaining before the November signing period commences in the middle of the month, Ogunbowale, a 5-foot-9 guard from Divine Senior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee, announced her commitment to Notre Dame on Friday morning during a school assembly.

“I’m a big Kobe Bryant fan, so it just made sense to announce on the 24th,” Ogunbowale said Friday afternoon.

With no first-period class to worry about — she has study hall — Ogunbowale spent a good portion of the first hour conducting interviews with reporters and accepting congratulations from friends.

“It’s been crazy,” said Ogunbowale, who has been recruited by Notre Dame since late in her freshman year.

Ogunbowale can shoot it and handle it from both guard spots. So what type of player are the Irish getting?

“Any player that they want,” she said. “I’m just excited to get out there.”

Ogunbowale worked through one final day of classes before she had a chance to unwind. Sort of. Where would she celebrate her commitment? Where else? In the gym.

“Maybe I’ll get some shots up with my best friend,” she said. “Then we’re just going to chill.”

Ogunbowale’s next game for Divine Senior Holy Angels will be the first time that Jeff Worzella has the chance to coach her. But it’s not like he needed to do much homework to prepare for his prized pupil.

“Everybody in the state of Wisconsin knows about her,” Worzella said. “You knew about the player she is, but it’s been cool to know her as a person. She’s just an amazing person, a flat-out great kid.”

Worzella, who coached elsewhere in the Milwaukee area last winter, first learned of Ogunbowale during the summer after her freshman year. One court at an area basketball tournament was way more crowded than all the others, and that was no accident. Everyone was there to see Ogunbowale.

She didn’t disappoint.

“She just took over,” Worzella said. “You could tell then that she had a chance to be special. But she hasn’t rested on her God-given ability. She works hard at it.

“Now I get a chance to coach her.”

Ogunbowale, who averaged 22.7 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.9 steals her junior season, selected Notre Dame over Ohio State and UCLA. She also considered Louisville and Wisconsin, a school she knows well. Her brother, Dare, is a redshirt sophomore running back with the Badgers.

The five-star recruit is ranked the No. 10 prospect by ESPNw’s HoopGurlz and considered by some to be the best player ever to come out of Wisconsin.

“This kid is a special player,” said Collegiate Girls Basketball recruiting analyst Dan Olson, who oversees the ESPNw national rankings. “She’s a sharp kid who has her act together. This kid’s going to go a long way.”

A two-time Associated Press and Gatorade state player of the year, Ogunbowale joins an Irish recruiting class that already includes two five-star, top-30 prospects in guards Ali Patberg (No. 14) from Columbus, Ind., and Marina Mabrey (No. 26) from Manasquan, N.J. The three will sign their national letters during next month’s early period.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, who also has commitments from two nationally ranked juniors, is prohibited under NCAA recruiting regulations from commenting on any player until she signs.

“This,” Olson said of Ogunbowale’s commitment, “puts Notre Dame in the top five for national classes.”

Connecticut, Duke and Texas all have commitments from two players ranked in ESPNw’s Top 10.

Ogunbowale averaged 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.1 steals as a sophomore. As a junior, she was a first-team all-conference selection and Greater Metro Conference player of the year. She also has extensive international playing experience. She averaged 10.7 points to help the United States' U-17 team win the FIBA World Championships in the Czech Republic this summer. She also was part of the FIBA U-18 3-on-3 team that took first place at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.

Olson knew Ogunbowale as a solid player who could see the floor, make a shot and get the ball to teammates when she played AAU ball for the Wisconsin Playground Warriors. But once Ogunbowale switched to play for North Tartan out of Minneapolis, considered among the elite of the elite, her game, and her national ranking, took off.

Ranked No. 33 early as a sophomore, Ogunbowale rocketed into the Top 10 heading into her senior season.

“I never look that closely at national rankings,” she said. “But when I went to (USA) team trials, there were a lot of girls who could play. I knew then I could compete.”

Tom Noie: (574) 235-6153

Flanked by her parents, Arike Ogunbowale of Divine Savior Holy Angels in Milwaukee announced she was going to attend Notre Dame at a school assembly Friday morning. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MICHAEL SEARS)