UCLA guard Charisma Osborne’s perseverance puts her on the cusp of the WNBA draft

During the summer of Charisma Osborne’s sophomore season at UCLA, the Bruins coaching staff created competition among its players to expose them to playing at the WNBA level.

Players were tasked with coming up with motion attack concepts during the WNBA season, with points awarded to a player for each clip and an accompanying explanation submitted. Osborne’s competitiveness pushed her to spend the entire summer watching every WNBA game she could. She meticulously cleaned and rewound the game tape before cutting and studying the clips that met the criteria. She examined pieces featuring players like Candace Parker, Kristi Toliver and Jewell Loyd whose games she idolized as a young hoopster in Southern California.

Osborne ultimately won the competition.

It’s become a great introduction to the next phase of Osborne’s basketball journey as she prepares to join the WNBA as one of the top prospects in the class of 2024. Monday night, Osborne will be the one of 15 players in Brooklyn waiting to play. hear their names called during the WNBA Draft (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

“It’s surreal,” said Osborne, one of the greatest players to ever put on a Bruins uniform. “I’ve been dreaming about this for a really long time now, and for it to finally be here, I’m so excited. I just can’t wait.

UCLA guard Charisma Osborne (right) clashes with Crieghton guard Jayme Horan (left) during the second round of the 2024 women’s NCAA tournament at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on March 25 in Los Angeles.

John W. McDonough/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

As a freshman at UCLA, Osborne remembers wondering if the college basketball lifestyle was right for her. She struggled to physically keep up with her teammates in practice and was unable to produce on the field when out of breath.

“I was literally dying in practice,” Osborne said. “I literally thought I wasn’t going to make it.” »

The summer after her freshman year, she committed to improving her fitness to not only be able to run on the field, but also to lead a team and be able to think and do what was asked of her simultaneously. Every offseason, conditioning was a point of focus.

Today, Osborne, who this season became only the second guard in Pac-12 history to score 2,000 points and total 800 rebounds in a career, is praised for the high energy with which she demonstrated in the field. It’s a welcome compliment that always reminds the draft prospect of his trip to Westwood.

“She’s got a motor, man,” Las Vegas Aces point guard Chelsea Gray said. “She goes there all the time. She’s got a good head on her shoulders where she’s going. Sometimes you can’t teach that. You can get better at certain skills, but someone who has a drive and wants to do better all the time, that’s what you really value.

Osborne, who helped the Bruins reach the Sweet 16 in her final season, finished her UCLA career as the second-leading scorer in program history. She is also first in program history in 3-pointers made, tied for third in field goals and seventh in assists.

Osborne’s time at Westwood was characterized by perseverance, high-level performance and adaptation. Its first season was at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. During her sophomore and junior seasons, due to either the impact of COVID-19 restrictions or UCLA’s lack of depth, Osborne was asked to play point guard instead of her natural guard position shooting. In her third season, she played through injury, requiring surgery – her third at UCLA – at the end of the year. As a senior, returning to the shooting guard position with a young but promising Bruins team, she led the team in scoring, rebounds and steals.

Although she was expected to be a first-round pick in last year’s draft, Osborne opted to use her final year of eligibility to return — a decision she said helped her hone her way to read the game.

“I watch so much film with my coaches all the time, it’s just something I really enjoy about basketball,” said Osborne who posted career highs in assists and shooting percentage. field goals this season. “Just improving different offensive and defensive reads and learning the little details has helped a lot this year.”

UCLA head coach Cori Close (left) talks with guard Charisma Osborne (right) during a game against Washington at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 26 in Los Angeles .

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Through an unpredictable tenure at UCLA, Osborne solidified herself as one of the best scorers and perimeter defenders in the Pac-12 while being named to four All-Pac 12 teams and two Pac-12 All-Defensive teams . Osborne finished his career at UCLA averaging 13.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

During a recent appearance on Atlanta Dream forward Haley Jones’ “Sometimes I Hoop” podcast, Talia von Oelhoffen, a two-time All-Pac 12 honoree who recently entered the transfer portal Oregon State called Osborne one of the toughest players to guard. in the Pac-12. The conference was considered the deepest and most competitive in the country this season.

“Her bag is so deep that no matter what her tendencies are, you want her to go over here and take this shot and then she hits it,” von Oelhoffen said. “She’s one of those players – she doesn’t have a very strong streak. She can kind of take any shot. She’s a player, she wants big moments, (is) just super-athletic and can kind of do it all.

Defensively, Osborne is among the best compared to other notable high-usage defenders. According to Synergy, Osborne, who grew up studying the play of defensive great Alana Beard, was the primary defender for 336 plays this season – 16th in Division I. Among 69 Division I players to defend at least 300 plays this season Last year, Osborne had the ninth-best efficiency with 0.688 points allowed per game. That ranks higher than other talented defensive guards in the draft like UConn’s Nika Muhl (0.715 points per game, 20th best efficiency) and Ohio’s Celeste Taylor State (lead defender on 234 plays, 0.756 points per game)

Among that group of 69 players, Osborne ranked fourth in field goal percentage allowed (29.7%).

According to various draft forecasters, Osborne is expected to be selected in the bottom half of the first round of Monday night’s draft – with some having her fall to the second round. According to ESPN’s Michael Voepel, Osborne is expected to be selected in the second round with the No. 14 pick by the Seattle Storm.

As for how Osborne’s game will translate to the next level, a member of the WNBA team’s front office praised Osborne’s growth as a leader and perimeter defender. Osborne’s ceiling as a WNBA player, according to the front office staffer, is tied to questions about her position (point guard or shooting guard) and whether she can become a consistent 3-point shooter.

Osborne, who shot 32.3 percent from 3-point range while at UCLA, said she is ready to play whatever position is asked of her in the WNBA. From what she’s seen, Gray believes Osborne has the right mindset to find her place in the league.

“Any coach that gives her advice or, before the draft, anyone that gives her advice leaving UCLA, I have a feeling she’s going to work on it,” Gray said.

Osborne has always chosen to respond positively when challenged. This will not change in the WNBA.

“I think it’s just the competitor in me.” said the 5-foot-9 Osborne. “When I don’t have something, it’s like, well, I’m going to work and do everything I can to try to get it. It’s exciting, it’s fun when you can overcome something or if there’s a challenge in your path and be able to overcome it. That’s a big part of why I love basketball, because it’s so competitive that way.

UCLA guard Charisma Osborne (center) and forward Michaela Onyenwere (right) walk toward the sideline during a game against Stanford at Maples Pavilion on February 7, 2020, in Palo Alto, California .

Cody Glenn/Sportswire Icon via Getty Images

As she prepares for the draft, Osborne turned to the UCLA-WNBA pipeline for guidance. She exchanged text messages with Atlanta Dream goalie Jordin Canada, fifth overall in the 2018 draft, as well as Chicago Sky forward Michaela Onyenwere, a close teammate of Osborne’s at UCLA, who placed sixth overall in 2021.

“They have always been so nice to me and always text me before and after games or ask if I need anything to call or text them,” Osborne said. “I’ll probably just talk to them, ask them for advice or ask them about their experience, especially as a rookie.”

As a professional, Osborne hopes to make an impact not only on the court, but also as a role model for kids who look like her and dream of playing like she did when she first started playing basketball at the age of 9. -old. As she transitions from the college ranks to the pros, Osborne isn’t looking too far ahead. Instead, she stays present in the moment she’s dreamed of since she was in sixth grade.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes offensively, defensively, whatever is expected of me,” Osborne said. “Obviously it’s going to require adjustment and the pace and change is going to be different. But I’m going to do my best to do everything that’s asked of me and try to be consistent in that area.

Sean Hurd is a writer for Andscape who primarily covers women’s basketball. His athletic peak came at age 10 when he was named camper of the week at a Josh Childress basketball camp.

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