Nneka Ogwumike

WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike prides herself on leadership. She developed some of those skills during her college career at Stanford that featured four trips to the Final Four. The Los Angeles Sparks selected Ogwumike first overall in the 2012 WNBA draft. She helped the team win the league championship last season for the first time since 2002. She spoke to ThePostGame about the ESPYS, Stanford's dominance in the Capital One Cup and how she works to constantly improve her game.

ThePostGame: Stanford women athletics just won its record fourth Capital One Cup. You were a student-athlete there for the first two. What was your reaction when you found out and what does it mean to you to be able to represent your alma mater at the ESPYs?
NNEKA OGWUMIKE: I guess you could say it was a mix of emotions. Both excited and not necessarily surprised. For me, it was a standard that we uphold so I was excited to hear about it. Also, it's nothing short of what I know Stanford can do. I'm really grateful to share in the experience again in my own professional way.

TPG: Obviously Stanford has experienced great athletic success in the past decade. This year, the stat line is impressive. National championship wins in volleyball, swimming and diving and water polo, as well as top-10 finishes in cross country, field hockey, soccer, basketball, fencing, indoor track and field, golf, rowing and tennis. You were part of this success. You helped your team get the Final Four four straight years. What does Stanford athletics do that allow its teams to be competitive and successful year in and year out?
OGWUMIKE: One thing Stanford does is that in every sport across the board, it instills a standard of excellence. That's both on and off the court. No matter what coach you have, no matter what organization you're a part of, we breed excellence. It's about doing the absolute best that you can can and harnessing that focus into what you do for your teammates and for your fellow students, and I think that definitely showed in our fourth Capital One Cup.

TPG: What will the $200,000 in student-athlete scholarships allow Stanford to do that other top athletic schools might not be able to?
OGWUMIKE: I can definitely say that it can be put to great use. We do an amazing job of allocating our resources to enhance the experience of the student-athletes, which then enhances the experience of the community. I'm really excited to see what they will do with all of that scholarship money and I hope that our students can benefits the most from what they do.

Nneka Ogwumike

TPG: I just brought up your run of Final Fours. That's a ton of postseason of experience. As an alumnus, do you try to give advice to players currently on the team and if so what is the advice that you give?
OGWUMIKE: Whenever I see someone who might be headed to Stanford or currently at Stanford, I try my best to let them know that you can definitely contact me anytime. We're here for each other. That's something that we stand by. We're a family. So when it comes down to it, I try to let the student know that it's important to stay true to what you believe in and always give your 110 percent because at the end of the day you owe it to yourself to do your absolute best. And at the same time you don't know whose life you could be affecting by doing your absolute best.

TPG: You said Stanford instills and expects a standard of excellence from its student-athletes. How has this mindset helped you grow as a player throughout your time in college and now in the WNBA?
OGWUMIKE: It's one thing to be a great player, but I've always wanted to be a great leader. I think that someone who is a great leader lives by being great every day and in everything that you do. One way that I've used to my advantage is once I get to a certain level, I try to create another one. You're never going to be the perfect player. There's always something that you can work on. So I always try to give my career and my progression different steps and I want to master as many of them as I can, until ultimately you're a master of your craft.

TPG: Now let's talk about your career in the WNBA. You're the league's reigning MVP. Not only that, but your team is the reigning champion. After such personal and team-related success, how did you approach this most recent offseason? Even being the league's top player, were there things that you personally wanted to improve on?
OGWUMIKE: We play year round, and playing year round allows me to be able to strengthen my game in overseas game. I play for a Russian team (Dynamo Kursk) and we were able to win the Euro League Championship, which is equivalent to a WNBA Championship oversees. So I've really gotten better at being a good passer and right now I'm currently working on my ball handling.

TPG: Does playing overseas challenge you in ways that the WNBA doesn't?
OGWUMIKE: You see more talent. The best players in the world in the WNBA, but then you also have a lot of the best players in the world playing overseas. I think that seeing different talent from different countries really broadens the horizons in what your competition in.

TPG: Halfway through the season this year, you guys are 12-5 and second in the Western Conference. How do you think the team has performed up to this point?
OGWUMIKE: We've done well dealing with adversity. In the beginning, we saw a few bumps in the road. But we were able to turn things around quickly and continue to establish that same championship culture that we had last year and we want it to continue on. We want it to be a part of our legacy. So I think we’ve done a really good job maintaining that and bringing all the new faces on board as well.

TPG: Moving forward to the second half of the season, what is something that the team of could improve on as it looks to defend its title?
OGWUMIKE: Just not being complacent. I think it's important for us to understand that every year is different and with that you're going to see even stronger competition for the very reason of us winning a championship, so it's important for us to do our absolute best and be leaders by example.