Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor are as different as fire and ice — which aptly describes their personalities.
A few days after professing their love for each other and promising wedding invitations, Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor were figuratively at each other’s throats.
But then, their relationship has always been difficult to understand.
“That’s who they are,” Washington women’s basketball coach Mike Neighbors said. “That’s their relationship. And not everybody has those relationships.
“It’s very, very unique. It’s fun to coach. And I brought them in the office afterward. We talked about it. I said the three of us in here, we get it. But nobody else gets it. They truly have become sisters. That’s just where they’ve come. And it’s fine.”
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Admittedly, Plum and Osahor are as different as fire and ice — which aptly describes their personalities.
“I’m not one to open up too quickly at all,” said Osahor, a 6-foot-2 forward from Phoenix with a steely cool demeanor.
She’s still not entirely comfortable with her newfound fame after helping the Huskies to their first NCAA tournament Final Four run last season.
And then there’s the outgoing Plum, who “starts conversations and laughs with strangers.”
Their basketball personas are also starkly opposite.
Plum, a 5-8 guard who is in constant motion, has carved out a record-breaking scoring career with her brilliant shot-making while Osahor — a more stationary force — became a YouTube sensation and fan favorite with her unorthodox three-point shot.
Both set school records last season. Plum is first on UW’s all-time (2,418 points) and season (960) scoring lists while Osahor set the season rebounding (417) mark.
“The majority of the baskets that we score, the other had something to do with it,” Plum said. “Whether she hit me on a cut or she set the screen for me to get open. Or I threw it back to her for a trail three.
“We’re usually right there for each other. We are super different, but that’s what makes it hard to guard. It’s like a 1-2 punch, but it’s way different punches.”
As freshmen roommates, it quickly became apparent their off-court relationship needed work if they were going to have any success on the floor.
“We didn’t speak to each other — and it wasn’t because we hated each other — but because we didn’t know each other and our personalities are so different,” said Plum, a native of Poway, Calif., near San Diego. “It’s almost like we’re so different that we’re the same. We think very similar, but we just go about it different ways.”
While Osahor dealt with shoulder and foot injuries that forced her to miss 24 games as a freshman, Plum set the UW season scoring record (that she’s since twice broken) and won the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award.
As sophomores, they helped Washington to an NCAA tournament appearance, which snapped a seven-year drought.
Last season, their relationship grew strongest when Osahor neared her breaking point with UW.
“We all have some moments when you’re going through some stuff and last year was the year for me,” Osahor said. “Because of her (Plum) and (former UW assistant and new Arizona coach) Adia Barnes, they are why I stayed. It was just a long year with stuff on and off the court and you need people by your side to help you through it.
“I wouldn’t lie to you, there were times I thought about transferring for sure. My faith is a big part of me so there is a reason why I’m here. A big part of it was also my mom. I talked to her. She prayed for me. And that’s why I’m here too to be honest.”
Plum added: “Chantel is extremely resilient. People don’t realize some of the stuff that she deals with on a daily basis. I just get a small picture of her movie and you get an appreciation of someone that goes through what she goes through and is able to come out and perform and be a great friend and teammate. I have nothing but respect for her.”
Plum shared similar sentiments last week at Pac-12 women’s basketball media day when she sat on a podium and gushed about her teammate, whom she called “a warrior.”
“One of the reasons I love Chantel so much is because she’s extremely honest with me,” Plum said. “She will say … that was a bad shot to that is not a cute outfit. You need people like that in your life because especially now that I’ve been able to have success so far, (and) people tell you what you want to hear and she doesn’t. She’ll tell you straight up.
“That bond is fueled over years. It takes time. It takes chemistry. It takes fights. It takes crying. It takes literally blood, sweat and tears to get there. So just that genuine love and respect for each other has brought us to a point in our relationship where that’s my sister. And for anything I’ll do for her.”
It was as if Osahor, who held back tears, had never heard those words before. And she told Plum something for the first time.
“The one thing that she’s given me that I’ve never really said to her is just confidence in my own game,” Osahor said. “There’s times I’ve just been like why am I here? If not for her, I don’t know if I’d be here.
“So Kelsey means everything to me on and off the court. Our off-court relationship by far means more to me than our on-court relationship. Our relationship will last a lifetime. She’ll probably be at my wedding.”
The emotional outpouring of affection didn’t surprise Neighbors, who also didn’t flinch a few days later when he watched his two stars try to rip each other’s heads off in practice.
“I had to separate them because they were out to kill each other,” he said. “They had fouled each other both so hard. It was a competitive drill and there’s no backing down with those two.
“I don’t think we’d be the team we were if they weren’t like that sometimes. Chantel is a difficult nut to crack, but once you crack it you’re in there. Kelsey is more open, but she’s difficult in her own way. They very much needed each other to be their best on and off the court. … And we need them at their best.”
• The UW women’s basketball team held a preseason media day Thursday for the first time since Neighbors took over in 2013. The Huskies — picked third in the Pac-12 coaches poll — aren’t going to sneak up on anybody this season. Said Neighbors: “The Arkansas in me and Papa Neighbors in me comes out and he always said things are different when the deer has the gun. So the deer has the gun this year and we know that. … You have to learn to deal with (expectations). It’s the next step in building a great program rather than having a great team.”
• Senior forward Katie Collier suffered a high-ankle sprain and is wearing a walking boot. She’s still expected to play in Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. exhibition against Central Washington at Alaska Airlines Arena.
• The Huskies are ranked 15th in the USA Today coaches poll.
• The Huskies are still waiting to learn if the NCAA will grant a waiver that will allow Nebraska transfer Natalie Romeo to play this season.
• Plum is one of six players selected from NCAA Division I teams who will participate in Women’s Basketball Media Day on Tuesday at the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn.