STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — A few days after Stanford's season ends, Chiney Ogwumike will pack her bags and leave for one of her longest and most important road trips yet.
The Pac-12 Player of the Year is headed to her parents' native Nigeria to be an intern with the Minister of Petroleum. Yes, that's right.
"Right after our season ends I would have a few days to pack up and head over to Nigeria and that would be for a 6- to 8-week span of time," Ogwumike said. "I realized, 'Hey, Chiney, it's way more than a game, you have to start making plans for your future,' and I had the opportunity."
She will be a job shadow of sorts, and this all counts toward the study-abroad requirement for her international relations major. Ogwumike also will work through the charity "Access to Success" to build a basketball court.
So, off she goes for the spring quarter.
As long as the NCAA signs off on it, that is. Ogwumike expects to know any day whether college athletics' governing body will accept her proposal for a leave of absence, but considering that she is ahead in her major "it's looking good" that she'll get the formal go-ahead.
"I fell in love with the major and I didn't want to do any other majors," she said. "But I knew that would be difficult because our season has the tendency of running all year long, making it hard for me to study abroad within the year."
Ogwumike leads top-seeded Stanford (33-2) into the Spokane Regional semifinals Saturday against No. 4 seed Georgia riding a 19-game winning streak. There's still plenty of basketball to think about before she goes abroad.
Initially, she figured she would take the trip during the summer, "but I fell in love with the summer school system where I like to get ahead in my academics, and that was so important to me, especially this year, because I knew it would be a big year."
Her father, Peter, is cheering first for a trip to New Orleans and a sixth straight Final Four berth for the Cardinal in the Big Easy. Then he will be eagerly awaiting his daughter — she is the second of his four girls — in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, where he spends 50 percent to 60 percent of his time as owner of a communications company, "or 30 percent during March Madness."
Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Chiney's older sister and the reigning WNBA rookie of the year with the Los Angeles Sparks, is playing in Poland and might also visit if her schedule permits this spring.
"I'm really happy, first of all, and really excited," Peter Ogwumike said by phone Wednesday from Nigeria. "The kids, when they come here, it's part of their heritage. They are Americans and were born and raised in America. We have our own cultural values at home as well. They're coming here to do something that's very good for mankind. They're actually coming here to help and do something that's so positive. That's something to me that I don't even know how to put it. I feel that it's almost like being a missionary, helping people."
Chiney Ogwumike has spent three summers on campus taking classes as well as a lead role in helping the underclassmen in the Cardinal program get acclimated as they begin college life as student-athletes.
Coach Tara VanDerveer is supportive of Ogwumike's trip.
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