Hailing from Fayetteville, N.C. is Ona Udoh, a star forward on the Wake Forest Women’s Basketball team. Last year, in her junior season, she started 23 of 27 games, averaging 8.4 points and 24.3 minutes per game. She ranked fourth in the ACC in field goal percentage at 0.587 and sixth in blocked shots at 1.5 per game. Udoh also led the team in total rebounds and blocks. She is currently beginning her fourth and final season on the court as a Demon Deacon.
Amanda Wilcox: Most people probably know that you’re an athlete, but what is one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Ona Udoh: Whenever I get asked this question, I usually [talk about my] family, but I feel like now I can’t say family because in so many interviews I [talked about] family. Let me think … I guess before I started playing basketball, I took dancing seriously. I was a dancer when I was a kid — the years before I started playing basketball, I did jazz, ballet, hip-hop and tap. I can’t really remember if I was good or not, but I know my mom loved it. As I started to grow taller and taller, my friends were like, “You should try basketball,” and I was like, “Yeah, sure, whatever,” and here I am.
AW: You basically already answered my question about how you found your passion for basketball, but is there anything you want to add?
OU: Honestly, once I started playing and I realized I could play at a higher level, like in college, I was like, “Oh, that’d be awesome.” Although I know my parents probably could pay for my college tuition, it was something where I thought, “If I could help my parents in any way…”
I started actually really playing late compared to my teammates, who all started when they were kids. I started in sixth or seventh grade. No matter when you start, I feel like I can show that you can still have passion for something and pursue it fully.
AW: Was your talent evident from early on?
OU: No, not at all. Honestly, I didn’t start flourishing until about high school when I started playing travel ball and putting more time in it and I realized I could play at the next level. I took time out of my day and practiced by myself, or with coaches, or with my brothers. My brothers, if you ever saw them, they’re all huge. There’s four of us, so we’d play two on two and it was fun. From all of that, I started to slowly develop and be the player I am now.
AW: Any interesting pre-game rituals?
OU: Pre-game for me, I just have to have good music. I’m usually in charge of what music we play in the locker room before the game so I just play the music I like to hear and dance around. I guess you can call it a ritual because I listen to intense hip-hop songs and it’s so much fun. I try to get my teammates to dance with me. Sometimes they don’t because they’re more focused than I am, but I just have to get loose. I can’t be so serious and uptight.
AW: How are you feeling about the 2020 season?
OU: Honestly, we’re doing amazing. Going out as a senior, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We’re [10-6] right now, so we’re doing really good. I’m very excited for the future. I only have 14 games more if we keep doing as well, and I’m so happy it’s going this way.
AW: Any one team you really want to beat?
OU: I think NC State for sure. I just want to beat all of the North Carolina schools. We beat Duke already, and so we just have NC State and UNC left, so if we can beat all three we’ll be state champs and that’d be awesome.
AW: It’s your fourth season — what do you hope to accomplish?
OU: I hope we get to the NCAA tournament because it would be the first time in so long … the last time was 1988 when my head coach was playing. If we could do that, it would be a huge accomplishment, and it would be a great thing to go off of and leave Wake Forest with.
AW: What has been your favorite or proudest moment on the court as a Demon Deacon?
OU: It’s between the Duke game we just played recently where Gina [Conti], my teammate, hit the game-winning shot and we won, or another very close game that we had last year where we won off of a free throw. Even though the kids were cheering the whole time, they went crazy when we won and it was an amazing time.
We won by one or two points and I remember my teammate who hit the free throw was in tears and I was like, “Yes!”