Nneka Ogwumike to present Stanford at 25th ESPY Awards with Capital One Cup

Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, the reigning WNBA MVP, will present a record fourth Women’s Capital One Cup to Stanford, her alma mater, at the ESPYs on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.

Nneka Ogwumike is no stranger to the ESPY Awards.

Her first experience came as a senior out of Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas, after the 6-foot-2 forward was tabbed 2007-08 Gatorade National Player of the Year in girls basketball.

She returned three years later along with younger sister Chiney to accept the inaugural Capital One Cup at the ESPYS on behalf of Stanford, which was recognized as the top Division I women’s athletics program in 2010-11.

Wednesday night at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Ogwumike will present her alma mater with an unprecedented fourth Capital One Cup in women’s athletics, which comes with a $200,000 donation in student-athlete scholarships.

“It’s really fun to have it come full circle,” Ogwumike told this publication over the phone on Monday.

“Complete, total honor,” she added. “For one, I was excited to hear that they had seized the Capital One Cup, yet again. And then for me to be a part of presenting it was even better.”

After a runner-up finish last year, the Cardinal set a record with 175.5 points.

The accolades for the women include three NCAA championships — volleyball, swimming and diving, water polo — as well as a Final Four appearance in basketball, while finishing one victory shy of back-to-back tennis titles.

“It continues to amaze me,” said Ogwumike, who will present the award to Inky Ajanaku, a fifth-year senior on the volleyball team. “But also it doesn’t continue to surprise me because I think that’s the standard that we uphold.”

The reigning MVP of the WNBA is also nominated for “Best WNBA Player” after winning last season’s title with the Los Angeles Sparks, thereby ending a 14-year championship drought with the franchise’s third trophy.

“I guess you could say it felt like it happened a while ago for me because so much has happened since,” said Ogwumike, who played overseas from October until May in Russia — able to communicate enough to where “I can go to the grocery store on my own,” she added.

“So it’s just been kind of challenge upon challenge and celebrating a lot of different successes. And I’m just really grateful to be able to stay in the moment, stay healthy and continue on with this championship legacy.”

The same can’t be said for Chiney, who in November suffered an Achilles tendon injury while playing basketball in China and is sitting out the WNBA season while rehabbing.

The sisters spent two seasons together on The Farm, but what’s it like playing against each other at the next level?

“Not as fun as playing with her, that’s for sure,” said Ogwumike, who was named WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2012, with Chiney garnering the same honor two years later. “I think it’s special because not a lot of people can say that they could do that at a professional level. It’s a tough defensive assignment, but I always love seeing her do well.”

It’s been a busy month so far for Ogwumike, who on July 2 celebrated her 27th birthday on the court.

“We beat Washington,” said Ogwumike, with a laugh.

A few days later, nude images of her from ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue were posted online.

Other athletes included New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, a graduate of Woodside High, and ex-Stanford tight end Zach Ertz, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, who posed with his wife, Julie.

“It was just one of those small kind of dreams that you’ve always wanted to do,” said Ogwumike, one of nine cover stars out of the 23 athletes selected. “I know it’s weird to say you’ve always wanted to pose in the nude, but for me it’s not about that. It’s about celebrating an elite class of athletes and kind of showing a deeper side of them. And for me, it helps other people get to know how confident I am about myself — my body, of course, but more specifically myself as a person.”

In terms of what she plans to wear at the ESPYS, which will be broadcast on ABC and live-streamed on WatchESPN, it turns out Ogwumike recruited the older sister of Ify Ibekwe, who is a former Pac-10 foe at Arizona and began the WNBA season on the Sparks’ roster.

“Her sister played at UCLA and she’s a major fashion designer here in Los Angeles,” Ogwumike said of Chineyere Ibekwe. “So she’s kind of dressing me and she’s got my glam squad going, so she’s put a few pieces together.”

The 25th anniversary of the award show will be hosted by two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning, a former quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.

“I think he’ll do awesome,” said Ogwumike, who is looking forward to sharing this moment with her family. “I’ve seen him do a couple of things on TV and he’s been great, so I’m excited. I think he’s definitely going to keep us all very entertained.”

• On the men’s side, Stanford — back-to-back NCAA champion in soccer — placed fourth in the Capital One Cup standings after winning it for the first time last year.

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