Erica and Olivia to carve own path

Tuesday night was Senior Night at Cy-Woods High School near Houston, the end of an era in Texas girls' basketball.

Erica Ogwumike celebrated the occasion with a gathering of relatives, friends and cupcakes, and some ribbing from big sister, Chiney, who posted on Twitter that she never got baked goods on her senior night.

"I got a high-five and a wave," Chiney tweeted.

Not all of Erica's family was there. Eldest sister, Nneka, is playing professionally overseas in Russia. Chiney, also a professional basketball player, is home in Houston, rehabbing an injury in time for her second WNBA season in the spring. And Olivia, who graduated from Cy-Woods a year ago, is in California nearing the end of her first collegiate season at Pepperdine.

Erica will be joining her there in a few months.

History will repeat itself in the Ogwumike family. Nneka and Chiney played together for two years at Stanford, one sister following in the other's stellar footsteps and creating a lasting legacy in Maples Pavilion, not to mention a pretty thorough rewrite of the school's record book.

Now Olivia and Erica will share a team and a legacy as well. At their own school and in their own way.

Erica Ogwumike jokes that her older sisters never usually hesitate to tell her what to do.

"But when it came to college, they were very quiet," said the youngest of the four Ogwumike sisters. "I mean, really guys?"

But it's hard to believe they were really that quiet.

"This is what Nneka and I wanted so badly for them," Chiney Ogwumike said Tuesday. "We wanted them to figure it out. We are so happy they have each other. "

And their own place to shine. It's a chance to pave their own path, even if they do it together over the next three years.

"That was a big reason why I supported them going to Pepperdine," Chiney said. "It's why they chose to go to Cy-Woods instead of Cy-Fair [where Nneka and Chiney went to high school]. It's a gut decision for them and I think it was the right one."

"I knew I was getting a high IQ player. But I didn't know she was as good as she is. She's gotten better each game. She's becoming the presence we've lacked in the post." Pepperdine coach Ryan Weisenberg on Olivia Ogwumike

Olivia Ogwumike is already laying the foundation for success in Malibu. She moved into the Waves' starting lineup after the first five games of the season and is averaging 5.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Not eye-popping numbers, but a start for a struggling program (6-18 overall, 1-12 in league play) that is looking to move up in the West Coast Conference.

"I knew I was getting a high-IQ player," Pepperdine coach Ryan Weisenberg said. "But I didn't know she was as good as she is. She's gotten better each game. She's becoming the presence we've lacked in the post."

Olivia Ogwumike said her game is "moving forward."

"I've gained a lot of confidence in my game, especially on defense," she said. "I think it's translating on to the court. I didn't think I'd be getting as much playing time as I have."

Olivia was a late-signing recruit for Pepperdine. She said she considered going to Stanford as a student, perhaps playing basketball as a walk-on.

"But Ogwumike is a household name there," Olivia said. "Going there would have been pressure-filled, I think."

Erica Ogwumike chose Pepperdine over Stanford, Texas and Rice.

"The fact that my sister was there, I did definitely take that into account," said Erica, who is averaging 18.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season. "I want to carve a legacy with her, and I could see myself in that program. I think it will be great to play with my sister."

The situations don't exactly parallel. Both of the eldest Ogwumike sisters played side-by-side in the post. Olivia is a forward and Erica is a guard.

And neither said they feel as if they have anyone else's shoes to fill, even with older sisters who were both first-team All-Americans who played in multiple Final Fours and both went No. 1 in the WNBA draft.

Olivia Ogwumike said her family's expectations of her are the ones she cares about.

"Basketball is an avenue," Olivia said. "Basketball is important, but education is important, too. I want to be a radiologist. I wanted to be in the best position to pursue that and play, and Pepperdine was a nice balance for me."

Erica accepts her role in the family legacy.

"If there's pressure at all, I see it as a good pressure," Erica said. "I have role models in my sisters who have accomplished everything I want to accomplish, and I can call them up on speed dial and not many people have that. I see it as a blessing."

Chiney got protective when it came time to talk about outside expectations on her younger sisters. She takes umbrage when people insinuate that either of them have something to "live up to."

"It makes me mad as a big sister when people try to impose that on them," Chiney said. "When you get to know them, you will see that we are all remarkably different. Olivia will hear people yell things when she's playing and I say, 'They better not yell that when I'm in the stands.' I'm very territorial when it comes to them."

Weisenberg believes the Ogwumike sisters will be key to the program's future success.

"They play hard, they bring people in and I'm really looking forward to it," Weisenberg said.

Added Olivia: "You are going to see that same Ogwumike fire and relentlessness and heart in the game. Hopefully we can do for Pepperdine what our sisters did for Stanford."