Arike Ogunbowale wore her Divine Savior Holy Angels uniform skirt with a Team USA women’s basketball warm-up windbreaker buttoned all the way to the top.
It was early Friday, Oct. 24, and she was going to make the biggest announcement of her life. As the top girls’ basketball player in Wisconsin, she was going to announce which college she would attend next year.
Accompanied by her family, she entered the Robert and Marie Hansen Fine Arts Theatre several minutes before the rest of the student body would fill the seats.
Ogunbowale was clearly excited, but the energy of the day kept her in constant motion. Even while seated, her legs were bouncing.
When she and her family were invited to the stage, Ogunbowale stood at the podium and read a prepared speech.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” Ogunbowale said about choosing a school.
Entering her senior year, she is the school’s all-time leading scorer, according to DSHA athletic director Peggy Seegers-Braun. She already had been two time Wisconsin AP player of the year, two time Gatorade player of the year and a FIBA (International Basketball Federation) gold medalist with USA Basketball U17 women’s team.
She thanked her coaches from grade school, AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), high school and Team USA. She also thanked her teachers, staff, fellow students and friends.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was, like, 3 years old, so the most important people I want to thank are my parents,” Ogunbowale said. “When I was in first grade, my mom let me play on her fifth grade basketball team and my dad coached me in soccer … my parents have been very strict on academics with my mom being a teacher and my dad a principal.”
Ogunbowale said her parents have always been active in her life.
“They always tell me what I don’t want to hear but what I need to know,” she said. “They keep me focused on my goals in life.”
Her decision was difficult. Her top five schools were Louisville, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA and Wisconsin.
“My decision came down to academics, athletics and my personal convictions,” Ogunbowale said.
Her speech was slightly longer than five minutes, but the tension had been building in the theater.
Then she said it – “Notre Dame.”
The building erupted in cheers and she put on a Notre Dame cap and took off her Team USA warm-up to reveal the Fighting Irish long-sleeved shirt she had been concealing.
“We feel great,” Yolanda Ogunbowale, Arike’s mom, said. “We feel it was a really good decision. We thought about it as a family … all the schools brought something to the table, but at the end of the day we felt that Notre Dame was the best fit for her.”
Her dad, Greg, agreed.
“It’s an opportunity for our daughter,” he said, but added there is more to college life than just sports. “She’s a great athlete, that’s OK. But the most important thing to us, that people tell us, is the attitude of the person that she is. That is more important to us than basketball or anything.”
After her announcement, Ogunbowale told local media she was excited that the recruitment process was over — something that has been going on since she was in seventh grade — and that she is looking forward to her senior year.
“I love this school,” she said. “I’ve been so blessed and honored to (have) been able to come to this school.”
She’s also looking forward to being a Notre Dame student.
“It’s the number one business school and that’s what I want to go into right now,” she said. “It’s a great religious school, great academics and a hall of fame coach.”
She also credited her history of attending religious institutions as something that was important to her when making this choice.
“I really want to keep my faith strong and not stray from that when I go to college,” she said. “That played a part of it.”
For now, her focus is on the Dashers’ season.
“We just want to make this year the best year,” she said.