Unfinished enterprise: Charisma Osborne hopes to steer UCLA to title

She knew the chances had been lengthy, however Charisma Osborne requested anyway.

Would UCLA, with a 14-12 document after dropping to Oregon within the second spherical of the Pac-12 Convention match, have an opportunity to listen to its title known as in the course of the NCAA choice present?

Coach Cori Shut delivered the dangerous information.

“I could just see in her eyes, this will never happen again,” Shut stated.

One yr after the Bruins missed the NCAA match for the primary time since 2015, the senior guard has began her revenge tour averaging 20.1 factors and seven.1 rebounds in main No. 20 UCLA to its greatest begin in three years.

Osborne is placing up profession highs, is on a number of watch lists for player-of-the-year awards and positioning herself as a possible top-five WNBA draft decide, however the person accolades pale compared to the dream she hatched as a recruit out of L.A. Windward.

UCLA guard Charisma Osborne pulls up for a shot over Connecticut guard Christyn Williams throughout a recreation final season.

(Noah Ok. Murray / Related Press)

“I remember when I was getting recruited here, Coach Cori and her pitch of me wanting to be on the team that wins the first [NCAA] championship here for women’s basketball,” Osborne stated. “I want to be a part of that.”

The No. 20 Bruins (7-0) will put their lofty targets to the take a look at towards defending nationwide champion and No. 1-ranked South Carolina on Tuesday at 4 p.m. PST in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks, who’ve wins towards No. 14 Maryland and No. 2 Stanford this season, are 44-1 at house because the 2019-20 season.

Whereas South Carolina and nationwide participant of the yr Aaliyah Boston had been celebrating this system’s second nationwide title final season, UCLA was at house, already knocked out of the WNIT following an injury-riddled 18-13 season.

After the frustration, the Bruins didn’t seem within the AP preseason top-25 rankings for the primary time since 2018. However with the nation’s high recruiting class and the long-awaited debut of graduate switch Gina Conti, the Bruins moved again into the nationwide highlight with a remade roster that gained the Battle 4 Atlantis match within the Bahamas.

As a substitute of counting on Osborne as a distributor and scorer at level guard, the previous McDonald’s All-American is flourishing in a deep rotation of guards together with Conti, Wake Forest’s No. 3 help chief who was sidelined by an harm final season, and freshman Kiki Rice. For the primary time since she was a freshman taking part in alongside future level guard Japreece Dean, an eventual WNBA third-round draft decide, Osborne isn’t main the Bruins in assists.

She’s again in her pure state.

“Sometimes I just felt like I was overthinking,” stated Osborne, who has led the Bruins in scoring in back-to-back seasons. “Now having other guards to be able to handle the pressure, I can just play.”

Relieved of her point-guard duties, Osborne is reaching new heights by channeling the liberty she felt as an 18-year-old rookie. Assistant coach Tasha Brown joked with Osborne that she must get again to being “Freshman ’Ris.”

Freshman ’Ris was aggressive on offense, driving into the lane and launching three-pointers. She was a pest on protection. She is what the Bruins need.

“There was just a do-whatever-it-takes mentality in her, her freshman year,” Shut stated.

Coach Cori Close talks with Charisma Osborne and Natalie Chou.

Charisma Osborne, left, and Natalie Chou speak with UCLA head coach Cori Shut throughout a recreation towards Washington in 2021.

(Ted S. Warren / Related Press)

Osborne was chosen to the Pac-12 All-Freshman staff after setting a freshman faculty document with 59 three-pointers. After she dropped a career-high 32 factors towards Washington State, teammates referred to her as solely “32” all evening at dinner.

What Osborne remembers most is the liberty she felt on offense, reasoning that any scoring would come naturally after she earned taking part in time by means of protection. Now as a senior, Osborne is dedicated to discovering her defensive groove once more. Shut has demanded it.

“You don’t have to carry the point guard burdens anymore, but you gotta carry this on,” stated Shut, who added she believes Osborne could possibly be “the most dominant defender in the country.”

With time operating out to ship on Shut’s promise of bringing this system its first NCAA championship, Osborne has a transparent sense of urgency, the coach famous. The liberty she felt as a freshman is now mixed with the maturity of a four-year starter with unfinished enterprise.

Nobody would have thought when the five-star recruit signed together with her hometown Bruins that she would enter her senior yr with just one NCAA match look. However her freshman postseason was canceled in 2020. UCLA superior to the second spherical in the course of the pandemic-affected 2020-21 season. That season, which was interrupted by coronavirus outbreaks, performed with out followers, and stored the staff secluded from household and mates, was certainly the toughest occasions would get at UCLA, Osborne thought.

Then final season occurred.

COVID-19 swept by means of the staff after a nonconference highway journey, forcing the Bruins to cancel three nonconference video games. Accidents hit so severely that UCLA forfeited one other recreation. Osborne performed by means of a torn meniscus, gritting her tooth on each aggressive drive to the basket solely to have her knee swell up after each recreation due to a bit of cartilage lodged within the joint. She not often practiced, hoping to protect her physique for her 35.4-minute-average workload, which ranked third within the Pac-12.

Osborne performed by means of the ache with hopes of carrying the staff to the NCAA match. As a substitute, the Bruins had been one of many first 4 out of the 68-team area.

“I never want to be back in that place or want UCLA to ever be back in that place,” Osborne stated. “It’s just helped me hold the standard, hold myself accountable and hold my teammates accountable to the things that we say that we want.”

Charisma Osborne guards a USC player.

Charisma Osborne tries to chop off a drive by USC guard Desiree Caldwell throughout a Pac-12 recreation final season.

(Ashley Landis / Related Press)

After offseason knee surgical procedure, Osborne is refreshed and refocused on bettering her recreation with hopes of making ready herself for knowledgeable profession. An ESPN mock draft listed her because the No. 5 decide for the WNBA draft in April, though Osborne might return with further eligibility granted in the course of the pandemic.

The 5-foot-9 guard works individually with the UCLA employees to determine her most effective photographs and find out how to modify her shot food regimen to play to her strengths. Because of this, she’s taking pictures a career-best 46.4% from the sphere regardless of a career-low 30.2% clip from three-point vary. On the sidelines, she has emerged as a vocal chief now not simply content material to steer by instance.

“[Osborne’s leadership has] been a reason why we’ve been clicking, I think, as a team a lot better than we did last year,” fellow senior Camryn Brown stated. “Our team chemistry, our camaraderie as a team, it’s getting better because I think Charisma has done a really good job of using her voice.”

The Bruins flashed their potential on the Battle 4 Atlantis match, the place they battled by means of three video games in as many days to win the championship. They avenged two losses to South Dakota State final season, sank a school-record-tying 16 three-pointers in an upset over then-No. 11 Tennessee and vaulted again into the AP high 25 for the primary time in a yr. After she led the staff in scoring in the course of the first two wins, Osborne dished a season-high six assists within the championship recreation towards Marquette and was chosen match most dear participant.

After the additional time victory, the Bruins celebrated within the conventional method of champions. They pulled on white championship T-shirts, fitted black caps over their hair and raised a trophy.

If Osborne has her method, it gained’t be the final championship celebration this season.