Nneka Ogwumike could afford to play the charitable big sister last weekend when her Los Angeles Sparks demolished Chiney Ogwumike's Connecticut Sun 90-64 in basketball's version of Family Feud.

While running down the court in the second half, Nneka told Chiney, "Hey, tie your shoe."

Always the protector, Chiney recounted this week as she and her sister prepared for round two Saturday in the WNBA all-star game at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

"She didn't want me to get hurt," Chiney said.

WNBA coaches picked Chiney Ogwumike, 22, for the East's team and Nneka, 24, for the West in the league's showcase event.

Los Angeles Sparks? Candace Parker, left, and Connecticut Sun?s Chiney Ogwumike right, reach for a loose ball during the first half of a WNBA basketball
Los Angeles Sparks? Candace Parker, left, and Connecticut Sun?s Chiney Ogwumike right, reach for a loose ball during the first half of a WNBA basketball game, Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) (Jessica Hill/AP)

The Stanford graduates had been teammates from the time they joined a local YMCA team in Cypress, Texas, but twice within a week will line up against each other. The first meeting filled Chiney with anxiety.

"That was a circus," said Ogwumike, the WNBA's top overall draft pick in April. "We tried to downsize it because you don't want to make it too much more than a game."

But in the aftermath, Chiney appreciated how rare it is for siblings to meet like that in professional team sports.

"It's one of those things you can't script out your life, it just sort of happens," she said.

The dynamics between the two hasn't changed much. Chiney, as usual, was chatty before the game started. Nneka, who had 24 points and 7 rebounds, ignored her.


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"She taught me really quick I'm just another player to her," said Chiney, who finished with 18 points and 6 rebounds.

Until Nneka noticed her sister's shoe laces.

It's part of Chiney Ogwumike's indoctrination into professional basketball. All signs point to Chiney following Nneka as a WNBA rookie of the year.

The 6-foot-4 forward leads the Sun with 15.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game as Connecticut (10-13) started the preseason with all-star center Tina Charles asking for a trade.

Ogwumike wasn't expected to replace Charles -- their styles are vastly different. But the rookie has changed the equation for the Sun.

"We would be in a big hole without Chiney," Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. "She is our now and our future."

Donovan expected it take longer for Ogwumike to adjust to the WNBA's faster and stronger post play.

The two-time Pac-12 player of the year didn't know what to expect entering a team trying to rebuild with a second-year coach.

But Ogwumike has found the WNBA easier at times because of the defensive three-second rule. For much of last college season, players guarded her so closely it was like they were part of her uniform.

"Now I have a little more space and a little more freedom," Ogwumike said.

The most difficult aspect has been losing -- the Sun lost seven of nine games before the All-Star break. It's a new experience for a woman who couldn't recall ever playing on a losing team.

Ogwumike has remained upbeat, finding perspective in new situations.

She lives in Groton, Connecticut, not far from where the Sun play. While Nneka waits to get accepted to graduate schools for business administration, Chiney plans to take her Graduate Record Examinations after the season ends next month.

Other than finding a school nearby Ogwumike isn't sure what she wants to study. With a degree in international relations, Chiney remains interested in government. But she also likes media and communications.

"Who knows," said Ogwumike, who also plans to play abroad in the WNBA offseason.

Whatever she decides, the graduate program will have a social component. Last month, the Ogwumikes joined an initiative with Unicef to raise money for girls in Nigeria.

Chiney spent part of her junior year working in her parents' homeland fulfilling a graduation requirement.

"She is the kind of woman you want to build your franchise around," said Donovan, the Sun coach.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.