Chantel Osahor’s style may be a bit unusual, but her understanding of spacing, her deft passing touch, her ability to stretch the floor, also make her an unusual weapon for UW.
The guy was trying to be helpful.
“You know,” the Husky fan said to Chantel Osahor the other day, “if you just get a little more lift on your shot …”
Folks bring this up a lot to Osahor, Washington’s efficient, if unorthodox, starting post player. Like, all the time. No, she doesn’t jump when she shoots a jump shot. Never has. Not even when she rolls off a screen to her favorite spot at the top of the three-point arc, takes a pass from point guard Kelsey Plum and launches a left-handed shot, always off the tips of her toes.
WSU @ UW, 2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
“Well,” Osahor told the guy, “I shoot around 41 percent (on threes). You don’t change what’s not broken.”
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If the only thing one notices about Osahor’s game is that she doesn’t jump, that she doesn’t fit a conventional mold of a Pac-12 post player, well, then shame on you. Osahor’s style may be a bit unusual, but her understanding of spacing, her deft passing touch and her ability to stretch the floor also make her an unusual weapon for a UW team that has designs on reaching the NCAA women’s tournament for the second year in a row.
Osahor, a 6-foot-2 junior from Phoenix, is averaging 10.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists for the Huskies (14-4), who are third in the Pac-12 at 5-2 entering Saturday’s home game against Washington State (12-6, 3-4).
For much of the season, Osahor has been among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio. She’s third in the Pac-12 in rebounds, shoots 52 percent overall and, yes, 41 percent on three-pointers (17 for 42). No longer does UW coach Mike Neighbors feel the need to qualify his compliments about Osahor, his chess player in high tops.
“In my conversations about her, I have stopped saying ‘for a post player.’ She’s just one of the best passers I’ve ever coached. Period,” Neighbors said, adding: “She sees two or three moves ahead of everybody.”
There were times Osahor didn’t know if she would get to this point, particularly during a trying first year at UW in which she was struck by a car while riding her bicycle.
The accident happened after a team practice at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on the night before what was supposed to be Osahor’s first UW game in November 2013. She was riding on the Burke-Gillman Trail back toward her dorm when a young male driver failed to stop at a trail crossing, striking Osahor, flipping her over and onto the hood of the car.
The driver, traveling an estimated 25 mph, had been messaging on his cellphone, according to both Osahor and Plum. Fortuitously, Plum and five other UW players witnessed the accident; they were piled in a car heading the opposite way of the other driver, and they had stopped at the crossing to let Osahor pass.
“Lucky for me,” Osahor said, “they were all there to see it.”
Her teammates rushed to assist her. Two teammates carried her into the car and drove to her to the emergency room. Others stayed back to talk to the male driver. Plum helped pick up the pieces of the bike that was never ridden again.
“It was crazy,” Plum said. “(The driver) felt really bad … but it gets me mad just thinking about it right now.”
Osahor had damaged joints in her right shoulder, which absorbed the brunt of her fall, and on which doctors later recommended surgery. (She elected rehab instead, and pain still lingers in the shoulder.)
The accident was an ominous start to a frustrating freshman season that was also derailed by a stress fracture in her right foot and the discovery of a benign tumor in her right knee, which was surgically removed after the season.
“There were definitely times where I was like, ‘I’m done,’ ” she said. She credited her teammates and her Nigerian-born parents, Dennis and Vicky, for their support to help her through the mounting injuries.
When Osahor was younger, Vicky would travel with her daughter’s AAU team, the Arizona Warriors, to tournaments throughout the country. Osahor began playing with the Warriors when she was 9, and they dominated about everyone they played, including boys teams. In their last two years of high school, the Warriors won de facto national titles.
“We played for fun and we were so good together,” Osahor said. Her teammates from the Warriors went on to play at UConn, UCLA, Michigan, Louisville, Harvard, Indiana, New Mexico State and Davidson.
Osahor, a political science major who aspires to be a college coach, is optimistic about this UW team in large part because she feels a similar bond with these teammates that she had with her AAU teammates.
“From the first time I saw her, I knew she was a player you wanted on your team. We’re lucky she said yes to us,” Neighbors said. “She makes everyone on the court better from the post spot, which is a rare, rare, rare quality.”