MILWAUKEE — The world found out about Arike Ogunbowole over the Easter holiday weekend when she hit two game-winning shots in the Final Four, but we knew her long before she went to Notre Dame.
Diamond Stone and Arike Ogunbowale are two of the best high school basketball players to ever come out of the state of Wisconsin. They’ve each won state titles, gold medals with Team USA and countless individual awards, but the All-Americans share more than just highly-touted skills.
It was on 78th St. in Milwaukee, in February of 1997 when Bob and Cynthia Stone brought home their baby boy, Diamond. Three weeks later, and three blocks over, Cynthia’s sister, Yolanda and her husband, Gregory welcomed a baby girl, Arike. It was here that the legacies of Stone and Ogunbowale were made.
“I had two older brothers, so it would be us four plus our cousins. We would always play,” said Ogunbowale.
Arike Ogunbowale was the only girl on the court — playing with her family, but they never treated her any differently.
“Growing up, we used to treat her like a boy pretty much,” said Diamond Stone.
“They didn’t take it easy on me. They just toughened me up. They just treated me like one of them,” said Ogunbowale.
Playing like “one of them” got Ogunbowale to where she is today.
“I mean, I usually win everything, so there’s no need to be competitive,” said Ogunbowale.
“I wouldn’t say all that,” said Stone.
Ogunbowale’s list of awards, like Stone’s is far too long to mention. Both are ranked as two of the best players in the country. In fact, they could be two of the best in the world. Last summer, playing for Team USA, Ogunbowale won her second gold medal.
“That’s probably the top accomplishment. I mean, there’s been a lot of accomplishments, but to actually do it for your country, that’s a pretty amazing thing,” said Ogunbowale.
A month later, also playing for Team USA, Stone took home his own hardware.
“It means a lot, you know, playing for your country, you know? When I was little, I used to watch USA teams and just dreamed that I would be on the USA,” said Stone.
Stone and Ogunbowale weren’t horsing around when it came to their high school, senior year campaigns. Each won state championships.
“That’s just a great way to end my senior year. I mean, this has been my goal since freshman year,” said Ogunbowale.
Her next freshman year started a few weeks later at Notre Dame. Diamond chose to play for Maryland.
“Sometimes I wake up and it’s like ‘wow, I’m going to Maryland’ you know? I just can’t really believe it,” said Stone.
With their commitments firm, the cousins started the All-Star circuit, beginning with the McDonald’s All-American game.
“Playing in Chicago at the United Center, you know, my family and friends are here, you know? It was a big game for me,” said Stone.
“So many greats have played on this court, and just to be able to play here and be on the McDonald’s All-American team was just an honor,” said Ogunbowale.
With their incredibly accomplished high school careers behind them, it was time to focus on the future. Living states apart for the first time, Stone and Ogunbowale will always be connected by blood, and a love for the game.
“I’m happy that she’s succeeding in basketball. It makes the family look good,” said Stone.
“I’m just super excited that he’s succeeding as much as he has, and I have, and we’re really making our parents proud, our grandparents proud, our aunts and uncles and all of our family,” said Ogunbowale.
Ogunbowale floated in a 3-pointer from the corner with 0.1 seconds left, lifting Notre Dame to its second women’s basketball title with a thrilling 61-58 comeback victory over Mississippi State in the NCAA championship game on Sunday night, April 1.
It was the second straight game that the junior guard hit a shot in the final second to carry the Irish. Her jumper with one second remaining in overtime knocked off previously unbeaten UConn in the semifinals Friday.
Maryland went 19-13 this season, and was left out of the NIT Tournament.