The Los Angeles Sparks secured the return of a renowned free agent, star forward Nneka Ogwumike.
The 2016 league MVP has played all 11 of her WNBA seasons with the Sparks.
And she will remain with the team that drafted her more than a decade ago after agreeing to a one-year contract with the Sparks, according to ESPN.
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Ogwumike’s signing comes at a crucial time for the Sparks. The team recently lost free agent signee Stephanie Talbot for the season to a knee injury. And Katie Lou Samuelson is expected to miss the entire 2023 season due to her pregnancy.
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Ogwumike previously expressed his desire to return to the team, and he worked with the Sparks front office to reach an agreement that would give the organization some salary cap flexibility.
Ogwumike has been named to five All-WNBA teams and is a five-time All-Defensive player. She averaged 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in her career.
«I feel like I’m reaching a turning point in my career and I understand what I want it to mean,» Ogwumike told ESPN. “I’m excited to see a lot of the improvements we’re making. I am grateful to be surrounded by players, coaches and staff who have a broader vision of the organization.
«I feel great where I’m at and how I’m progressing as an athlete. I want to be able to win and do it with some great people. I really believe in this organization.»
Ogwumike’s MVP campaign helped lead the Sparks to a championship in 2016. But the franchise has suffered disappointment in recent years, missing the playoffs in the past two seasons.
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Five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher was relieved of his head coaching duties in June 2022. Fred Williams was named interim coach, finishing last season before Curt Miller took over full-time coaching duties.
Miller said that Ogwumike was one of the reasons he decided to join the franchise.
«The conversations with Nneka and the collaborations we had…we wanted to do this with players who really want to be with the Sparks,» Miller said. «This is a fun new era, and Nneka is the centerpiece of what we’re going to try to do. Communication from him throughout this entire free agency has been an incredible partnership.
«And she’s an outstanding, versatile player. She probably doesn’t get the credit she deserves for how versatile she’s been.»
The Sparks also free signed Chiney Ogwumike, Nneka’s sister. Chiney previously played for Miller in Connecticut.
The Ogwumike sisters spent two college seasons together on the Stanford Cardinal women’s basketball team, and both have been with the Sparks since 2019.
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«We are really two entities that are stronger together,» Nneka said. «It’s always something to celebrate. And I really want to take that to another level by winning with my sister.»