Chantel Osahor’s left-handed, flat-footed three-pointers were described by Texas A&M coach Gary Blair as “scud missiles” after Osahor hit two of three in the Huskies’ loss to the Aggies in December.
Osahor, a 6-foot-2 freshman for Washington, is a post player who can spread defenses with her accurate-but-awkward three-point shot, is a good passer and has the strength to play around the rim.
When she’s been healthy enough to play, that is. The Huskies have had trouble keeping their big players on the floor.
Freshman Katie Collier spent last season rehabbing a knee injury and has been limited by hamstring and neck injuries this winter. Starting sophomore forward Talia Walton had food poisoning in December and is now managing chronic knee pain.
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Osahor wasn’t sure she’d even play this season after suffering a shoulder injury in October when she was hit by a car while riding her bike on campus. She joined the team for two games in Texas in December, then a stress fracture was found in her right foot that put her on the sideline again.
Osahor and her scud missiles returned two weeks ago against Arizona State, and she played in both losses to Washington State. Osahor, Collier and Walton should all be able to play when the Huskies (8-7 overall, 1-3 in Pac-12) host Utah at 7 p.m. Friday and Colorado at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Washington coach Mike Neighbors has had to alter his practice schedule with so many players banged up. He said this week that everyone who can play the weekend’s games will practice on Wednesdays. The other days will be for treatment, individual workouts and rest to compensate for the injuries.
Neighbors has been a fan of Osahor since the first time he saw her play in an AAU game for coach Curtis Ekmark’s elite Arizona Warriors. Osahor was a star for Saint Mary’s High School in Phoenix, where she was also coached by Ekmark.
Neighbors kept recruiting Osahor until she committed to the Huskies. Last summer, Osahor arrived early, with high school All-American Kelsey Plum and guard Brianna Ruiz, surprising new teammates with her style of play.
“Looks can be very deceiving with Chantel,” UW junior guard Jazmine Davis said. “It looks like slow-motion, but I’ve guarded her in practice and she made me look like a fool, because it was one little quick move — a slow finish — but a quick move to go by you.”
Osahor has played in five games this season, averaging just 12 minutes and 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds. She has made 4 of 10 three-point attempts.
The healthy post players will join Aminah Williams and Mathilde Gilling to help Washington try to to break its three-game losing streak. The Huskies were picked to finish fourth in preseason Pac-12 polls.
“You don’t see any panic in our kids because we knew it would be hard,” Neighbors said. “We think everybody in our league is very even and No. 4 Stanford is a nod above that. I’m thinking about where we’re at in terms of improvement, and we should be further ahead of where we are. And when you can’t practice, you can’t get better. We haven’t been able to practice.”
Washington has depended more on its guard play offensively due to the banged-up front line. Davis (19.2 points) and Plum (18.7) are the team’s leading scorers. Williams is the leading rebounder (10.7).
Osahor’s return hints at a future with added depth and production inside. Even if the style is a little quirky.
“It’s very different from what we’ve had to play with,” Davis said of freshman centers Osahor and Collier. “Once we get into that motion of having solid post players in there, we’re going to get used to that and the game is going to be a whole lot easier than being so guard-oriented. More of an all-around game.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org