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Tamika Catchings

Sparks star cultivated her MVP skills on the blacktop

Sparks star cultivated her MVP skills on the blacktop

Long before she was an All-American at Stanford, became the Sparks’ No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft and on Tuesday earned the league’s most valuable player award, Nneka Ogwumike was the center of attention on a small court in Tomball, Texas.

It was a driveway blacktop next to the Ogwumikes’ home, where Nneka, the oldest of four girls, set the rules. She was 11 but already too tall for gymnastics, so she took on her three sisters by herself.

There were various rules in this family basketball contest, but the last rule still makes Nneka laugh: Only two sisters were allowed to guard her at once, and the other could wait at the rim.

“That’s...

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