Three years ago, the Dallas Wings drafted Arike Ogunbowale out of Notre Dame with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 WNBA draft. Today she cemented her place as the team’s centerpiece, signing a multi-year contract extension that will take her through the 2025 season. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but the deal is reportedly fully protected for three years at major money.
“This opportunity with the Wings is a dream come true,” Ogunbowale said in a prepared statement. “I want to thank Wings ownership, Greg Bibb, and [Coach] Vickie Johnson for their belief in me.
“I was excited when the Wings drafted me, and now having spent the first three years of my career here I’m proud to call Dallas home. I look forward to a great future with the Wings organization.”
Ogunbowale has made her mark in myriad ways her first three years in the league. She was the 2020 WNBA Scoring Champ and was named to the WNBA All Rookie Team in 2019, All WNBA First Team in 2020, and All WNBA Second Team in 2021. Last year, she was also named the WNBA’s All-Star Game MVP.
Locking the Milwaukee native up is a massive statement of intent by an organization not far removed from previous stars Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins-Smith asking for, and eventually receiving, trades out of Dallas. She’ll also remain the offensive focal point of a team that has currently retained all 12 of last year’s players from the team that lost to eventual champions Chicago Sky in the first round of the playoffs.
This is also the first major bit of offseason news out of Dallas since WNBA free agency opened on January 15 and free agency contract signings began Tuesday. It’s been a whirlwind couple of days with many big-name players changing teams as others stayed put. Notable transactions include the Seattle Storm adding former Los Angeles Sparks guard Gabby Williams in exchange for Katie Lou Samuelson (a former Dallas Wing) and the No. 9 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft. Two-time WNBA champions Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd both returned to the Storm. Myisha Hines-Allen returned to the Washington Mystics, who also picked up the Atlanta Dream’s Elizabeth Williams, and A’ja Wilson returned to the Las Vegas Aces. And last night brought a three-team deal that sent Diamond DeShields to Phoenix
Meanwhile, Dallas has stayed quiet. Big picture, the goals remain the same. The Wings need to identify who among their long list of young talent—which will only grow this spring if Dallas hangs on to both of their top-seven picks in the 2022 WNBA Draft—will serve as championship-caliber building blocks alongside Ogunbowale. Satou Sabally, Dallas’ other All-Star last year, is the safest bet to serve as a co-star. Perhaps either Charli Collier or Awak Kuier, the first and second picks in last year’s draft, will take a step forward to join them. The needs will only become more urgent once Ogunbowale’s extension kicks in after her rookie deal expires this season and the payroll gets tighter.
For now, this year’s offseason priorities haven’t changed, either. Dallas needs a veteran presence to slot in alongside the young players and help them mature. Sylvia Fowles and Angel McCaughtry, two possibilities I suggested last month, are no longer viable options if the Wings were looking to trade for an established vet. Fowles will return to Minnesota for her final WNBA season, and McCaughtry will join her. DeShields, not an experienced veteran but an exciting player I thought would fit with this young Wings team, is now off the board, too. But there are still plenty of names left on the market should the Wings decide to go this route.
Anyone who does come will have to fit alongside Ogunbowale, a confident, self-assured player who everyone knows will get the ball at the end of the game. She’s also evolved over the past three years; adapting to being a more vocal leader, managing expectations and learning new ways to affect the game. She was already a dangerous offensive player, but she’s begun to round out her game, too, both on the defensive end as well as improving her rebounding, assists, and free-throw shooting percentage outputs.
The long-term signing of Ogunbowale is a major deal for a young Wings team with a lot of talent but in need of an anchor. Ogunbowale is that anchor. When you talk to her about the Wings, about competing, about her goals, her answers are always the same: winning games and winning a championship.
The Wings are a strong team with a high ceiling. With Ogunbowale now in place long-term, Dallas has taken a major step closer to reaching it.