Cal Basketball: Is Kristine Anigwe Beginning to Carve Out A Place in the WNBA?

Photo by Gerome Wright

Jeff Faraudo

Kristine Anigwe likely will never become the kind of force in the WNBA that she was during her record-setting college career at Cal.

But the 24-year-old, in her second WNBA season, is beginning to create a niche off the bench with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Anigwe equaled her career high eight eight points on 4-for-4 shooting in 16 minutes on the floor in the Sparks’ 87-64 win over the Washington Mystics on Thursday.

Afterward, she got encouraging words from veteran teammate — and former Stanford star — Nneka Ogwumike, a six-time WNBA All-Star and the league’s 2016 MVP.

“I see a lot of myself in Kristine. She’s very raw and athletic and she wants to soak everything in,” Ogwumike said. “I really try to simplify it for her and let her understand that she has to trust herself. When she plays with instinct, that’s when she plays her best.”

Anigwe followed the Mystics game by contributing seven points and five rebounds in a season-high 22 minutes in the Sparks’ 90-76 win over the Indiana Fever on Saturday.

The back-to-back performances may be just what Anigwe needs to feed her confidence after a mostly rocky start to her professional carer.

The Sparks are Anigwe’s third team in two seasons after being selected No. 9 in the first round of the 2019 WNBA draft by the Connecticut Sun. In 17 games as a rookie with the Sun, Anigwe averaged just 2.0 points, 1.8 rebounds but got limited playing time, just 7.1 minutes per game.

The 6-foot-4 center was traded to the Dallas Wings midway through the season, and showed some progress, producing 3.2 points and 3.6 rebounds while playing an average of 12.9 minutes over 10 games.

The Wings traded her to the Sparks in May, and Anigwe said she was grateful to have a roster spot in the league. She also promised to work hard at whatever role coach Derek Fisher assigned to her.

She hasn’t seen action in every game this season — three `DNP - coaches decision’ opposite her name in the box score in the Sparks’ first nine games.

But when she has gotten a chance, Anigwe contributed.

Before her eight-point performance against Washington, Sparks coach Derek Fisher alluded to Anigwe’s ability to help a team featuring the likes of Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Riquna Williams and Chelsea Gray.

“We really do believe we have 12 players that, at any one point in the game, can do something for us,” Fisher said before watching eight players score at least six points in the win over the Mystics.

Armed with limited shooting range but the ability to convert in the paint, Anigwe entered Saturday’s game shooting 75 percent from the field (12 for-16). She then converted 3 of 5 shots against Indiana, bringing her season accuracy to 71 percent. 

Anigwe is posting an average of 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in just under 12 minutes per outing

A star from the start at Cal, Anigwe earned All-Pac-12 honors all four seasons. She was a consensus All-American as a senior in 2018-19, led the nation in rebounding and was named national defensive player of the year.

She left Cal as the program’s career leader in points and rebounds.

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Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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