Speaking to a circle of media members Tuesday, Chantel Osahor immediately gave off a vibe that all her University of Washington teammates would be able to identify — there’s no one like her. Wearing pink slippers, a Sweet Sixteen sweatshirt, and a hat (she joked that she hadn’t had time to get her hair done), Osahor’s presence and poise went a long way toward explaining why she won the regional tournament’s MVP award to help the Huskies to their first NCAA Final Four appearance.
Osahor is listed as a forward/center on the roster, but only because coach Mike Neighbors had to pick something. A defensive force, Osahor also had 18 rebounds against Stanford in the regional final. But Osahor is no two-trick pony. The junior also scored 24 points, and is regarded as having one of the most reliable, albeit unorthodox, three-point shots in the country.
Osahor is Washington’s most adaptable weapon.
“It’s a cop-out to say the versatility but you find me another player in basketball, not women’s basketball, but basketball, that can get 15 rebounds, makes eight threes and has five or 10 assists on the biggest stage,” said Neighbors Tuesday. “There’s not another kid in America that you could say is our backup point guard, a shooting guard, and a power forward rebounder that’s getting half the defensive rebounds against Kentucky.”
While Neighbors slightly inflated the single-game statistics, the point of Osahor’s flexibility is a big part of why the Huskies have another shot at Syracuse — the Orange won 66-62 in November — in the national semifinal Sunday (5:30 p.m., ESPN2).
What Neighbors didn’t inflate was the value of Osahor’s mind.
“She helps me coach,” said Neighbors. “She coaches me. She keeps you on your toes because she wants to be a coach, she thinks like a coach.
“She was the one that recommended that we get out of the zone (against Stanford), and I agreed . . . Everyone thinks that she sits over on the (exercise) bike and chills during practice, but she’s watching and (helps tweak gameplans).”
Osahor is an uncommon player on an uncommon team. Washington is the lowest seed to reach the women’s Final Four since Minnesota, also a 7 seed, in 2004. Only one 10-loss team has won the national title, when Tennessee surpassed Old Dominion in 1997.
Neighbors nearly missed out on recruiting Osahor, seeing her play in high school only because he accidentally showed up to the wrong court during an AAU tournament. His biggest challenge in recruiting her was getting her to speak on the phone.
“I was really quiet when I came in, I wasn’t one to say much,” said Osahor of her initial relationship with Neighbors and the team. “With all my injuries, it was kind of a setback for me. I think (my sophomore year at UW) was easier because I got in the rotation and he got to see more of me. This year is a lot easier.”
Osahor has demonstrated her toughness, overcoming major misfortune at Washington. Her freshman year, she was hit by a car while riding a bike, damaging the joints in her right shoulder. A week after returning, she wound up with a stress fracture in her foot. That’s also when doctors discovered a benign tumor in her knee that had to be removed.
The Phoenix native also struggled with weight. She lost 70 pounds from the end of last season, largely through diet and swimming.
Considering the injuries and the long recovery, it would be impressive if Osahor was even on the floor in her junior year. That she returned to lead Washington to the final stages of the NCAA tournament is impressive.
Osahor isn’t worried about the critics who offer friendly advice that her jump shot, which doesn’t include an actual jump, is improper.
“It’s something I’ve always done,” said Osahor. “I guess you could say it’s self-taught. I never really perfected it or tried to do anything to it, it just sort of happened. It’s not like my form isn’t good.
“And it goes in.”
As for the pending visit to the national spotlight — the team left for Indianapolis Thursday morning — Osahor said that the team was ready for the Final Four, not worried about it.
“We’ve got to go out there and have fun,” said Osahor. “This is an experience a lot of people won’t get. When you play scared, that can hurt you, so we just need to go out there and soak in the moment, our game will take care of itself.”
If Osahor’s unorthodox shot continues to drop, the Huskies could play for the school’s first women’s hoops national title Tuesday. Compared to what she’s experienced to get to the Final Four, one or two more games are nothing formidable.
I’ve been mesmerized by this team during the tournament. I’ve watched the KY and Stanford games twice on DVR!
However, I must say the the Oregon St.-Connecticut game on Sunday will be the most interesting that day. Hoping OSU can at least stay close. If so, would bode well for the UW women if they advance to the championship game.
UConn will demolish Oregon State somewhere around 90-60.
An incredible amount of pressure on the UConn ladies to dominate. Should their key players get into foul trouble early the Beavers will employ that grind it out Pac12 style of play that earned them the Pac12 Championship.They weren’t awarded a #2 seed for nothing. That is a tough club the Huskies will be banging with.Your scenario might put a mental chink in their invincible Armour.
ESPN reported today that NEVER…as in zilch…has a #4(or lower) won the Nat’l Championship. Two Pac12 teams stand in the way of keeping that stat intact!
Should our Dawgs get past a formidable #4 Syracuse team it will be Chasing history~they could etch their #7 names into the record books.
Hands down~An amazing season that should make anyone who follows NW basketball proud. Here is to a David/Goliath finish.
In women’s hoops, superior talent pools at at the top top among a few programs. Lower seeds lack the firepower for upset.
Its true Art. Seriously few people will be plunking down $$$ in Vegas to bank on a Husky loss vs the Beavers. And if our homewtown dawgs should be so blessed as to match up to an all Husky final? Even fewer Vegas $$$ I would suspect with a #7 seed in there. Pipe dream or not it is fun to ponder. Recruiting exposure would go through the roof if they were the first “low” seed ever to win it all. One can dream~as far I know that is not outlawed in America.Any way it shakes out we should be very proud of our UW women. Go Huskies!
UWHuskies were seriously outplayed in Nov by Syracuse. Don’t get too far ahead.
They were also trounced by Stanford in the regular season as they shot horribly.
Go Beavs! Go Huskies! Your point about Stanford is true. They had a gritty win in the tournament vs the Cardinal and that proved to them mentally that they can play with that team. It carried over into the beautiful game they played in ousting Stanford last week.
This UW group is a determined bunch.They will def go into this Syracuse game looking to avenge the black eye they received in November.
I hadn’t seen any of their games until the tourney and must admit I don’t know how her threes are so consistent and accurate. She literally stands there and shoots – no knee bend, no jump, just stands there and shoots. It’s really a one-of-a-kind style, flat shot, and has remarkable accuracy. As to rebounding, no one in those games was able to handle her, as she moves and sets up very well and has serious size, a Barkley-type wide body. She will definitely play at the next level.
She can shoot like that because she has remarkable upper-body strength. Which is also part of her rebounding prowess.
Female Wes Unseld?
Here’s one for you, since you’re going retro – No Sonic had a more flat shot than: Tada: John Brisker.
So yes, players of the same era, a combo of Unseld and Brisker. Whoa – unbeatable!
Even flatter than John Johnson? Oh, my!
Keep an eye on the release. Curry-esque.
Why not the Huskies?Classic example of a squad peeking at the perfect time~Fantastic season with “Coach Osahor” available for one more tour thru 2016~17 along with her sidekick~the Sweet and Juicy Plum whose balanced game augments her centers unorthodox style of play.
Long long ago the Seattle Supersonics had an unorthodox center whose cock back behind the head/neck shot was also scrutinized relentlessly.Jack Sikma was hardly the textbook center yet he, like Chantel ,simply put it in the basket at a very productive rate and helped his team in a variety of little ways to bring the town a championship.
Pretty Exciting that Oasahor and company have a chance to emulate that 1979 pro squad we had in Seattle. What a story that would be!
Topple the Giants! Go Huskies!
Sikma often got leg lift into his shots. Chantel is all upper body, with an incredibly quick release.
You are right Art but often you could barely shove a credit card under Sikmas lift …he sure didnt sky. To be true they are two different kinds of unorthodox. I just watched the replay of Huskies/Standford PAC12 tourney game and Oasahor hit a clutch 3 with about 30 seconds to go to seal the win.She actually jumped a little to get that shot off but that was because she was moving to get out of the way of the on coming defender. She is a joy to watch.
To be sure one of the best most entertaining Husky centers to play the game for UW.