DePaul's hard (losing) fight to recruit Notre Dame star Arike Ogunbowale

The recruiting push for Arike Ogunbowale was hard.

Especially for DePaul.

You might not recognize her name, but you would recognize Ogunbowale's most recent highlights.

Ogunbowale, a 5-foot-8 junior guard for Notre Dame, was the star of the Women's Final Four last weekend.

She hit a buzzer-beater game-winner against Connecticut in the national semifinals and then hit a buzzer-beater game-winner against Mississippi State in the championship game to lead the Irish to the national title, their first since 2001. Both games went to overtime. And both shots produced goose bumps.

Three years ago, Ogunbowale was already making big plays. Maybe not as big as she did at the Final Four, but she definitely stood out. She was one of the most highly sought after high school guards in the country, a McDonald's all-American out of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee where she scored more than 2,200 career points.

"I watched her the maximum number of times I could," DePaul women's basketball coach Doug Bruno said. "During the school year, in the summer, we were there. Since she was an eighth-grader, Arike was a priority for us, and we were one of her top choices."

Bruno thought DePaul had the perfect in with Ogunbowale, too.

Her mother Yolanda (nee Block) had been a softball star at DePaul. In 1985, Yolanda was named all-conference by the North Star Conference and was also the league's offensive most valuable player.

"Yolanda loved DePaul," Bruno said. "We had a great relationship with her and her husband Greg. But, as you say in recruiting, if you finish second, you might as well finish 22nd."

Arike Ogunbowale, of course, chose Notre Dame over DePaul, a tough decision for everyone involved. But Bruno, who has also just missed on several notable Chicago prep stars, such as Jewell Loyd (who also went to Notre Dame), Tamika Catchings (Tennessee) and Candace Parker (Tennessee), has adopted a simple philosophy to keep his sanity throughout the cutthroat recruiting process.

"We just thank God for the kids who do tell us yes," Bruno said. "And we genuinely wish the kids who say no the very best. We truly wish them well."

Clearly, Ogunbowale has done well for herself since leaving high school.

She has averaged double-figures all three seasons she has been at Notre Dame, including her freshman year (11.4 ppg) and she has been a part of a Sweet 16 team, an Elite Eight team and, of course now a national championship team.

She was named the most outstanding player of the Women's Final Four last weekend, scoring 18 points against Mississippi State in the title game and 27 points against previously undefeated and No. 1-ranked Connecticut.

On Friday, Ogunbowale, now somewhat of a national sensation, was flown out to California for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," where she got to meet her idol, former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.

She is also on this week's cover of Sports Illustrated.

"The Women's Final Four was fantastic from a dramatic point of view, with all three games going to overtime and of course, the fantastic shots that Arike hit," said Bruno, who has some perspective having just completed his 32nd year on the bench. "I don't remember anyone hitting two game-winners like that in the Final Four.

"It was great in the sense that a lot of people tuned in to that and were paying attention to the Women's Final Four. Women's basketball is a great sport and I love when people pay attention to it. Arike had a lot to do with that."

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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