Chiney Ogwumike seems like a shoo-in to win the WNBA rookie of the year award, matching the honor bestowed on her sister two years ago. However, Chiney's play will not be enough to get her team into the playoffs. Several other former Stanford players will be playing in the WNBA postseason, though.
With Jeanette Pohlen sitting out the season with a torn Achilles tendon, it leaves five former Cardinal players playing in the WNBA this season, and three of them look to be on their way to the postseason.
The regular season ends Sunday, and not all of the eight playoff spots have been determined.
But Chiney Ogwumike's Connecticut Sun have been eliminated from postseasoon possibilities. Even though Ogwumike is averaging 15.6 point and 8.6 rebounds -- both of which lead the team and are tops among all WNBA rookies -- the Sun are just 12-20 and have lost 14 of their past 18 games. That drops them to last place in the Eastern Conference with no chance to make the postseason. Another former Stanford player, Kayla Pedersen, is also playing for the Sun, averaging 1.3 points and 2.2 rebounds off the bench. The Sun were just 10-24 last season, which is why they had the right to take Ogwumike with the No. 1 overall pick. Despite the Sun's struggles, Ogwumike was named WNBA rookie of the month for both May and June, and there does not seem to be anyone who can prevent her from winning rookie of the year honors.
Her sister, Nneka Ogwumike, was named rookie of the year two seasons ago, and she will be playing in the postseason again this year for the Los Angeles Sparks. Even though head coach Carol Ross was fired on July 20 and replaced by general manager Penny Toler, the Sparks are third in the Western Conference and assured themselves a playoff berth by beating Minnesota on Tuesday. Nneka Ogwumike is averaging 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds. Perhaps her most impressive stat is her 87.8 percent shooting from the foul line. You may recall that she shot just 79.2 percent from the line as a Stanford freshman in 2009.
The star on that 2009 Cardinal team was center Jayne Appel, and she is making a major impact in the WNBA this season. When her San Antonio Stars played the Sparks this past Sunday, Appel and Ogwumike went head-to-head for parts of the games. Appel finished the game with just eight points but she tied a San Antonio franchise record by pulling down 20 rebounds. Ogwumike had 18 points and three boards in that game, but the Stars pulled out an 82-76 victory that ended a four-game losing streak and improved the Stars' postseason chances. Appel is averaging 5.1 points and 8.1 rebounds, the latter ranking eighth in the WNBA, one spot behind Chiney Ogwumike.
The Stars have not quite clinched a playoff spot yet, currently holding the fourth and final postseason spot in the West. One of the teams trying to catch San Antonio is the Seattle Storm, who feature another former Stanford player, Nicole Powell. Currently in her 11th WNBA season, Powell gets limited playing time for the the Storm, averaging 2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds. She has already been hired to be an assistant coach for the University of Oregon women's basketball team under new Ducks coach Kelly Graves this season. Powell will assume those coaching duties after the season. She plans to retire from the WNBA after this season, and unless a lot of things fall into place over the next few days, the Storm will fail to make the playoffs. That means Powell's final WNBA game is likely to be the Storm's regular-season finale Sunday in Seattle against Phoenix.