Kristine Anigwe is the WNBA Draft’s most dominant rebounder and now is headed to the Connecticut Sun as the No. 9 overall pick. The Cal senior has nearly every school record imaginable on lock — scoring, rebounding, first 30-30 game — but her physical prowess under the rim is her biggest strand-out trait that should translate to the next level.
Anigwe’s name blew up two years ago when she scored 50 points in a game on 19-of-23 shooting with 14 rebounds, and she’s been producing at ridiculous levels ever since. In 33 games this season, she’s had double-doubles in 32 of them. Yep, almost every single one, including 20 rebounds or more eight times. That includes her 32-point, 30-rebound night in a road win over Washington State. Her numbers are outrageous, and it’s all the more impressive considering she didn’t start playing basketball until she was 13 years old.
15rebs is the usual NORM, but 30rebs and 32pts is just MIND BLOWING! Kristine Anigwe continues to raise the bar, much appreciated pic.twitter.com/46K8EtG86D— PassThaBall.com (@PassThaBall) March 4, 2019
Anigwe had a bit of a late start to the game. Born in London, she only started playing basketball in seventh grade, long after she’d moved to the U.S.
“When I was younger, my mom didn’t really know about basketball,” Anigwe told SB Nation. “She had to learn a lot about sports in general, she grew up watching tennis and soccer. Being Nigerian, soccer is really popular in our culture and basketball wasn’t really a strong sport. People didn’t really know how to play or know what it was.”
That hasn’t held her back a bit, despite not taking basketball seriously until her sophomore year in high school.
Why Sun fans should be excited about Anigwe
She claims rebounding was never her specialty, but that’s hard to believe. Anigwe’s grown into the world’s best rebounder. According to Her Hoops Stats, she rebounded 26.5 percent of all possible boards during her time on the floor, the best in the nation. That included 34.4 percent of all defensive rebounds, which is 0.9 percent better than the best men’s college basketball rebounder. She owns the paint.
Anigwe’s a rebounding offensive genius, but her defense is stellar, too. She plays both ends of the court, finishing in the paint on offense and protecting it on defense. The 6’4 big blocked nearly two shots per game (1.7), which ranks 63rd in the nation. She was named the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year in a year despite the conference being stacked with talent. Fellow conference standouts Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon and Alanna Smith of Stanford are expected to be first-round picks in this year’s draft.
Ivan Rabb, a former Cal men’s basketball player who’s now an NBA forward for the Memphis Grizzlies, shared a court with Anigwe for two years. He told SB Nation, “every time I was in the gym, she was there at night.” Rabb pinpointed rebounding as one of Anigwe’s biggest strengths, but also highlighted a lesser talked about part of her game: stretching the floor.
She doesn’t shoot from range often by way of a Cal system that thrives when she’s crashing the boards, but she is plenty capable. This year she’s taken a career-most 23 attempts from behind the arc and sunk seven of them.
Why Sun fans should be nervous about Anigwe
Anigwe’s the ultimate scorer and rebounder, but she might take some adjusting on a team that isn’t centered around her production scoring. At 3.3 turnovers per game and just one assist per game, she fell outside the top 3,000 in turnovers-to-assist ratio, per Her Hoops Stats. With just a 7.2 percent assist rate, she finished outside the top 2,500.
Anigwe took 17 shots per game as the featured star on her team. The next-most prolific shooter Cal has, Kianna Smith, took just nine. But Anigwe will have to readjust at the next level, where she won’t be the best scorer on her team right away. If she can figure out how to contribute to winning beyond scoring, she could be a star in the W.
Get to know Kristine Anigwe
Pregame warmup song: “I like listening to gospel music. I don’t like to get too hyped up before the game. I try to calm down.”
Most Used App: “Instagram honestly. I don’t use social media that much, but if I’m on my phone I’m on Instagram.”
Cats or Dogs? Which kind?: Dogs. I like small dogs. They’re reliable and always there for you.
If you didn’t play basketball, what would you want to make a career doing: “I would want to be a sports psychiatrist, helping people find their true self like a life coach. When I was younger I wanted to be a broadcaster because I wanted to help people see their true selves. You don’t see a lot of African-American women on TV. That motivates and inspires you to do that, so I want to do that and help people behind the scenes.”