For Arike Ogunbowale, the trip to the top of the Empire State Building on Wednesday was unusually fast.
It had been arranged for her to bypass the lines and take express elevators to the observatory on the morning she was to become a professional basketball player. In the hours leading to the 2019 W.N.B.A. draft, these kinds of experiences did not faze Ogunbowale. Not after she had become one of the most recognizable faces in college basketball after hitting a pair of buzzer-beaters for Notre Dame in last year’s Final Four — one to slay Connecticut, the other to best Mississippi State and win the national championship.
“Nah, I’m used to life throwing new things at me now,” Ogunbowale said with a smile as she looked out over the New York skyline.
Even for the relentless Ogunbowale, the past week has brought a particular kind of whiplash.
On Wednesday night, the Dallas Wings selected her fifth in the draft, after the Las Vegas Aces took her college teammate Jackie Young with the top pick.
“You know, Dallas is a great place, and they have a great coach there, so I’m really excited,” Ogunbowale said, referring to Brian Agler, who has won the league title with teams in Seattle and Los Angeles. “I’m ready to get started.”
The draft followed her vintage set of performances in this season’s Final Four: 23 points in another win over Connecticut, and a game-high 31 points in the national title game against Baylor. Ogunbowale’s final shots came after a drive to the basket that yielded two free throws in the waning seconds, her team trailing by 2 points.
Then, the unthinkable: a miss. And a championship lost. Ogunbowale’s painful moment played out on the national stage, too, amplified in part by her previous success. Her mother, Yolanda, r