Nneka Ogwumike has said she had always wanted to become the Most Valuable Player of the WNBA and put a lot of work towards achieving the goal. The Nigerian, who led the Los Angeles Sparks to the No. 2 seed in the WNBA playoffs, was named MVP for the 2016 season on Tuesday.
“As far as goals go, this honour has always been on a list I wrote down in the back of some journal years ago,” Ogwumike told ESPN.com.
“Dreams don’t sprout overnight, and triumph doesn’t grow from trees. My 2016 season is a reflection of years of being a student of the game, hours of gruelling practice, memories favourable and unfavourable, of great teammates and heartbreaking losses on the court.”
It’s the first MVP honour for the 6-foot-2 forward, who averaged a career-high 19.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 blocks this season, her fifth in the WNBA. She ranked third in the regular season in scoring and rebounding. It is also the first honour for Africa-born player in the world’s biggest basketball league.
The 26 year old forward received 31 of 39 first-place votes and 362 points from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. New York’s Tina Charles received the other eight first-place votes and finished second with 267 points, followed by Minnesota’s Maya Moore (197 points), Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne (119 points) and Ogwumike’s Sparks teammate Candace Parker (30 points). Players were awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for a second-place vote, five points for a third-place vote, three points for a fourth-place vote and one point for a fifth-place vote.
The 26 year old forward shot a league-leading 66.5 percent from the field (244-of-367), the second-highest mark in league history. She also shot 16-for-25 from beyond the arc this year after being 7-for-34 in her first four WNBA seasons combined.
“(Ogwumike) has had a season of extreme efficiency for the ages, and Nneka has worked extremely hard to expand her game,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “Not only has she been dominant at the offensive end, but also she has developed that defensive stopper mentality and is one of our key team leaders — and will be for the WNBA in the future.”
The No. 1 overall draft pick and Rookie of the Year in 2012, Ogwumike plays for her adopted country USA.