Her size, unorthodox three-point style and leadership could help Washington’s all-time rebounding leader. She is projected to go anywhere from the top half of the first round to the bottom of the second round.
The WNBA coaches and scouts are taking a long look at Chantel Osahor and trying to understand what Washington Huskies fans have known for years: She’s not your average basketball player.
They’re trying to figure out how the All-American center led the nation with a 15.3 rebounding average considering she’s likely three inches shorter than the 6-foot-2 that she’s listed.
“You know, she’s probably, if we’re all honest now, she’s probably 5-11 to 6-foot,” Los Angeles Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “But she has tremendous, quick hands and she’s got great strength. And she has tremendous instincts for the game.”
The WNBA people want to know if Osahor’s unorthodox three-point shot will be as effective in the pros where the arc is 22 feet, 1¾ inches and about 2 feet further than college.
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She shot 35.6 percent on threes during her four-year UW career and was efficient (46.5 percent) from the floor.
Her ability to stand flat-footed beyond the arc and flick shots that look like they’re fired out of a cannon is what separates her from the other post players in the draft.
“Her uncanny ability to hit the three-point shot is what’s probably going to give her a legitimate shot of making a team,” Agler said.
In what’s considered a guard-heavy draft that’s devoid of an abundance of superstar talent, South Carolina’s Ailana Coates and Maryland’s Brionna Jones are the only post players who are locks to be selected in the first round.
Meanwhile, Osahor’s size, scoring ability and versatility as a playmaker make her perhaps the most intriguing draft prospect considering her boom or bust potential.
Some mock drafts project she’ll land in the top half of the first round whereas others have her falling to the bottom of the second round.
Osahor has drawn comparisons to Courtney Paris, a 6-4, 250-pound third-year center who plays for the Dallas Wings. Danielle Adams, a 6-1, 239-pound center, is a similar-sized player who spent four years (2011-15) in the WNBA before playing overseas last season.
“I’ve loved her game,” WNBA analyst Rebecca Lobo said about Osahor. “The question with her is her health (and) her ability to play the schedule that they play in the WNBA with back-to-backs and four games in six days or whatever it can be.
“She’ll definitely be in a training camp. I think she’ll go in the second round and I think she’ll have a chance to really show coaches what she can do.”
Playing in the WNBA wasn’t always the plan for Osahor, a Phoenix native who started just five games during her first two seasons at Washington.
Whenever she’s done playing, Osahor will begin a career coaching where she’s destined to shine.
“Oh yeah definitely, I see coaching in her future and you know what, she’s going to be great at it because she understands the game so well,” said Arizona coach Adia Barnes, a former UW assistant. “Chantel is one of the smartest players out there.
“But you know what, you’re only young once. So I say, play as long as you can play.”
Osahor hasn’t always been vocal about her desire to play in the WNBA, but things changed during her junior season when she helped Washington to its first NCAA tournament Final Four and the basketball world got a glimpse of her unique skillset.
She continued to dominate this season while tying the Pac-12 season rebound record with 519 and pulling down a conference-record 30 boards in a game.
Washington’s all-time rebounder leader, who was first in the nation with 30 double-doubles and averaged 4.1 assists, recorded the only triple-double in school history as a senior.
Midway through a record-breaking season, Osahor made it clear she intended to pursue a professional playing career.
“It’s something I don’t really talk about, but yeah I want to play (in the WNBA),” she said. “I think I can be effective in that league and do some of the things that I’ve been doing. We’ll see. But yeah, I’m confident I can play at that level.”
Osahor acknowledges she’s not a typical player and her success in the WNBA depends largely on a right fit.
At Washington, former Huskies coach Mike Neighbors admitted it took him a little while to understand how to effectively utilize Osahor’s unique talents.
Her conditioning was an issue early in her career. She averaged 14.2 minutes during an injury-plagued freshman season and 21.1 minutes as a sophomore.
Neighbors held her out of practices, which allowed her to play more minutes. As a senior, Osahor averaged 33.6 minutes, which ranked sixth in the Pac-12.
“She needs a coach that believes in her and teammates that understand her and get it,” Neighbors told espnW in March. “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.”
Washington standout guard Kelsey Plum, the presumptive No. 1 pick in the draft, thinks her Huskies teammate will be a star in the WNBA.
“I’m really excited about her transition,” Plum said. “When you have the ability to think the game before anyone else, I think your game translates regardless of position, size and speed of the game.
“Basketball is a mental sport as much as it is physical and I believe that if anyone can make the transition, Chantel can.”