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Sun trade Chiney Ogwumike to Los Angeles for first round draft pick

Connecticut’s Chiney Ogwumike, shown against Washington in 2018, was traded to Los Angeles on Saturday.

UNCASVILLE, April 27 – The Connecticut Sun traded former No. 1 draft pick Chiney Ogwumike to the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday in exchange for the Sparks’ No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA draft, the Sun announced today.

The trade reunites Ogwumike with her older sister, Nneka, on the Sparks. The two women played together in college at Stanford University. Nneka was the WNBA MVP in 2016 and led the Sparks to the WNBA championship that season.

“Chiney Ogwumike is one of the most athletic, versatile and efficient frontcourt players in the WNBA,” Sparks general manager Penny Toler said. “Chiney provides us additional inside scoring, rebounding and rim protection. She will be a great addition to our roster.”

Chiney Ogwumike, a 6-foot-4 forward, has been with the Sun for five seasons but has played just three. She was the WNBA rookie of the year in 2014 after she was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft by Connecticut, averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

She missed the 2015 WNBA campaign after rehabilitating from micro-fracture surgery on her right knee.

In 2016, she averaged 12.6 points and 6.7 points for the Sun, who missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year. She played in 33 games and started 18. Ogwumike was named the Associated Press’ Comeback Player of the Year.

Ogwumike missed the 2017 WNBA season after tearing her Achilles tendon playing in China in November 2016. Connecticut made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since 2012 with a surprising 21-13 record.

Last summer, Connecticut’s Chiney Ogumike was selected to play in the WNBA All-Star Game for the second time in her career.

Last summer, Ogwumike averaged a team-leading 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds a game for Connecticut, which went 21-13 and made the WNBA playoffs for the second straight year. But Connecticut was again eliminated by the Phoenix Mercury in the second round of the playoffs on the Mohegan Sun Arena floor.

Ogwumike shot 60.3 percent from the field last season, the third-highest mark in the league and the best in Sun history. She scored in double figures in 27 of 31 games she played. She was 10-of-11 from the floor for 22 points in a win over Phoenix last July and had a career-high 30 point sin a loss at Seattle in June.

“We would like to thank Chiney Ogwumike for her contributions to our organization since 2014,” Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller said in a statement. “We wish her well with her career and expanding her off court interests.”

In May, ESPN announced that they had signed a multi-year agreement with Ogwumike to make her a full-time commentator with ESPN. She will added a regular basketball studio analyst role to her SportsCenter Africa co-hosting responsibilities. Ogwumike will contribute studio coverage analysis on the NBA, WNBA and women’s college basketball, ESPN said.

The Sun open the 2019 WNBA season on May 25 and the trade doesn’t empty the cupboard. Connecticut won 21 games in 2017 when Ogwumike was recovering from surgery led by 6-2 forward Alyssa Thomas, 5-9 guard Jasmine Thomas and 6-foot-6 Jonquel Jones, who are each returning this season for Connecticut.

And Connecticut’s top pick in the 2019 WNBA draft is 6-4 forward Kristie Anigwe from California, who averaged 22.5 points and 16.2 rebounds a game. Miller was thrilled when she slipped to the No. 9 spot in the WNBA draft where Connecticut scooped her up.

Anigwe had more than 20 rebounds in a game eight times as a senior. She was the Pac 12 and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.

Connecticut has a pair of preseason exhibition games at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Monday, May 13 at 7 p.m. against New York and on Tuesday, May 14, at 7 p.m. against Dallas. The Sun open the 2019 WNBA campaign by hosting the Washington Mystics on Sunday, May 25, at 7:30 p.m.

Ogwumike is not the first No. 1 pick that Connecticut has traded. Former UConn star Tina Charles was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft by Connecticut in 2010 and was the WNBA rookie of the year in 2010.

After playing four years in Connecticut including being named the WNBA’s MVP in 2012, the Sun traded Charles to New York prior to the 2014 draft.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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