Osahor’s hard work pays off in UW’s postseason

Washington Athletics

Chantel Osahor doesn’t worry about whether anyone thinks about her game, no matter how unconventional it appears.

She knows what she knows.

“I know basketball,” Osahor said. “I know my role, what I’m supposed to be doing out there.”

That was never more true than it was on Monday, when the junior post finished with nine rebounds, 15 points and four steals in the Huskies’ 74-65 upset of second-seeded Maryland in College Park, to propel Washington into the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001.

While junior guard Kelsey Plum is one of the best scorers in the country, it is Osahor that Washington coach Mike Neighbors says is his best basketball player. Osahor, the 6-foot-2 Phoenix native, is a deceptively skilled player. She is one of the best post passers in the country – dishing 114 assists this season, has hit 32 3-pointers this season with her unorthodox left-handed set shot and collected 41 steals. And she dominates the glass to the tune of 10.8 rebounds a game.

“What she did against Maryland was a continuation of what I think is the best month of basketball of her career so far,” Neighbors said. “She’s been really consistent for us.”

Osahor said she’s been able to maintain that consistency because she is in the best shape of her college career.

“I dropped some weight in the summer and I’ve kept it off and that’s helped me a lot,” Osahor said.

She said she feels healthy and strong and prepared to stay on the floor even as the Huskies play with a limited bench and ask their starters to play perhaps as many as 40 minutes.

“I’m ready to do it,” Osahor said. “You just have to play.”

Osahor’s career at Washington got off to a difficult start. She was hit by a car riding a bike on campus, an accident that left her with shoulder injury that, coupled with a stress fracture in her foot, limited her time on the floor as a freshman. Her shoulder still requires constant rehabilitation.

She has been cognizant of making sure she can stay on the floor, working on her play with the strength coach and athletic trainer that has included a certain amount of physical rest, including spending one day of the week in the pool while her teammates practice.

“She gets that extra day in the pool and she’s been dedicated to taking care of her body,” Neighbors said. “She came to me and said ‘I think we need to start this regimen earlier’, and we started doing it in December instead of January. And I think she feels great. I’ve been asking her ‘Are you good?’ And she is telling me that she’s great.”

Neighbors credits Osahor for setting her own pace and making the most efficient use of her talents.

“She has been a monster out there for us,” Neighbors said. “We aren’t where we are without her.”

Osahor is ready to go further. She said her teammates are feeling the swell of confidence after knocking Maryland out of the tournament and are ready to keep playing.

“Our conference got us ready for this,” Osahor said. “We feel like we are good enough to beat anybody.”

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse.  

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