<
>

Don't be fooled: Chantel Osahor is much more than a complement to Kelsey Plum

play
Plum, Washington open with a win (0:54)

Kelsey Plum scores 17 of her 29 points in the second half to propel Washington past Montana State 91-63 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (0:54)

It was just about time this year that Chantel Osahor became the star in a version of "Who's That Girl?"

The strength, the rebounding, the passing. And let's face it, that set 3-point shot that looks fired from of a cannon -- no arc, but fast and effective.

Washington was in the process of making the first Final Four run in program history and Osahor was one of the Huskies' most compelling storylines.

"Honestly, I came a long way as a player before people noticed me," Osahor said ahead of the NCAA tournament. "At that point, I was just doing what I always do. People thought my game came out of nowhere, but I'd been working pretty hard. It was funny though, because it was like, 'Boom,' and all of a sudden I'm doing interviews and there's a 'Sports Science' video. It was crazy."

Osahor -- whose third-seeded Huskies host 6-seed Oklahoma in the second round Monday (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 9:05 p.m. ET) -- admitted the questions about her unorthodox 3-point shot got old.

"It's all anybody wanted to ask me about and it was not the only part of my game," Osahor said. "At least, this year, I showed people that I am a lot more than that."

There's little doubt about that.

Osahor does much more than complement NCAA all-time scoring leader Kelsey Plum. The 6-foot-2 Phoenix native has carved out a marquee role in her own right. Osahor is averaging 15.7 points and an NCAA-leading 15.4 rebounds per game. She leads the nation with 28 double-doubles this season and set the Pac-12 single-game record with 30 rebounds against Washington State in January.

Huskies coach Mike Neighbors call Osahor's stats "video game numbers."

"I just don't think anyone could have expected the production she's given us," Neighbors said. "Those numbers are mind-blowing. I've learned not to doubt that kid. When she gets her mind set on something, there's no telling what she can produce."

Now Osahor seems to have the lead role in "What's She Going to Do Next?"

The WNBA draft will be held in April not long after the end of the NCAA tournament. One WNBA coach calls Osahor an "intriguing" prospect.

Her size, mobility and versatility remind a few WNBA coaches of Danielle Adams, the Texas A&M product who burst on to the scene in leading the Aggies to a national title and then carved out a five-year career with the San Antonio Stars as a role-playing post before she was waived last spring.

There are also comparisons to former Oklahoma star Courtney Paris, who dominated the post in her collegiate career, but took longer to find her way as a pro and was cut from a handful of WNBA teams before settling in with the Tulsa Shock/Dallas Stars over the past few years.

At one point, there was question about whether Osahor wanted to play in the WNBA. She laid that issue to rest.

"I do want to play," Osahor said. "Having the confidence in my game, knowing I can contribute to a team in the WNBA. There are not a lot of players like me. I do think I can help a team."

Neighbors believes it was a misunderstanding, that Osahor was asked whether she would play in the league, and her uncertainty about whether she would be drafted led her to say that she didn't know.

"I think when you aren't one of the top-20 kids and people aren't talking to you about playing professional basketball, it's all new to you and maybe a little intimidating," Neighbors said. "Obviously, just like her college experience, she is going to have to find the right fit."

Fit. It is a concept that Osahor knows will figure big in her future.

Neighbors was willing to take a shot on an unconventional player. He was willing to be patient as she worked her way through injuries, altering her workouts, limiting her practice time, and treating her differently than his other players. But Osahor is no longer missing pregame workouts, and Neighbors' quest to get her in good enough physical condition to play nearly 40 minutes a game worked.

"She needs a coach that believes in her and teammates that understand her and get it," Neighbors said. "She doesn't have to practice as much as other people, and that can be hard for people to understand and accept. And it's not because she doesn't want to do it, but because she knows if she is going to be ready to play 40 minutes, she has to do this."

Neighbors said he has talked to WNBA coaches about Osahor and they are excited about her potential as a pro.

One WNBA coach projected that Osahor might be a late first-round to early second-round pick.

"If she can find a coach that believes in her as much as I do, and teammates that understand what she brings to the table, she will be great," Neighbors said. "I don't think there is any question that she makes everybody on her team better. There isn't a pro coach out there who couldn't use somebody like her.

"There were a lot of people who said she would never be able to play in the Pac-12, and not only did she prove she can play, she played at an elite level. She has had an All-American season. Whatever criteria you use to judge a player, she's been pretty impactful."

Osahor said she isn't focused on where she will land after her college career is over. She hopes she won't have to worry about it for a few more weeks. A return trip to the Final Four and a shot at a title is the only future she sees.

"I'm really not thinking that far," Osahor said. "Coach tells me that he talks to [WNBA] coaches, and I tell him, 'Don't tell me stuff. I don't want to know.' That will come, but that's not now."