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Michelle Smith WBB Feature: UCLA's Charisma Osborne provides defense and dancing skills

Feb 14, 2020

Charisma Osborne, according to UCLA head coach Cori Close, dances everywhere she goes.

“And she gets everyone to dance with her,” Close said.

Is that leadership? Maybe. Tone-setting? Definitely. Charisma? Without a doubt.

“She doesn’t realize what an influencer she can be,” Close said. “I’ve talked to her about it. She knows how to influence people, but I don’t think she understands yet how powerful that can be. It’s a greater responsibility, but I don’t think she knows how to do that yet.”

What the freshman guard from Windward School in Los Angeles - the same high school where former UCLA standout and the WNBA's Seattle Storm's Jordin Canada played before coming to Westwood - understands is scoring from multiple places on the floor and defense.

“In high school, I could really score any way,” Osborne said. “Going into college, I’ve really tried to focus on reading the defense, and figuring out whether I need to pull-up or shoot a 3. I’ve always been told that defense wins championships, so I’ve always understood how important it is to play defense. 

“Coming in as a freshman, even if I couldn’t score, I knew I could play defense and get rebounds.”

Osborne is ranked third on the UCLA roster in scoring, averaging 11.1 points per game. She has scored in double figures in 10 of her last 12 games, including a 20-point, six-rebound, four-steal game against USC back in January. She will play a key role in this weekend’s huge series against No. 3 Oregon and No. 11 Oregon State. The last time UCLA faced Oregon, they fell in overtime in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament. Osborne was still in high school, finishing her senior year.

“She’s brought a lot to our team,” Close said. “When the pressure rises, she knows what to do. She didn’t play well against Stanford (on Feb. 7), and then in the fourth quarter, she hit some big shots, some big stops, made some huge defense plays.”

All of which helped to propel UCLA to their biggest win of the season over the Cardinal and move into the No. 7 spot in the national rankings.

“She’s already a three-level scorer,” Close said. “She is the best we’ve had since Jordin keeping ball-handlers in front of her. She is going to be an elite defender. She needs to tighten up her handles a little and clean up some footwork, but she’s attacking the basket at all levels.”

Osborne remembers her first day of practice at UCLA last summer. 

“That first day was rough,” Osborne said. “There was something left out in the locker room. We had to run. A lot. I was thinking, ‘This is how it’s going to be? I don’t think I’m built for this’.”

And then it got easier.

“I feel like I’m learning new things all the time,” Osborne said.

As for the dancing, Osborne said she has never really thought of it as a leadership skill.

“I’m more of a lead-by-example person,” Osborne said. “I just want to work hard and do what I’m asked to do.”

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, San Francisco Chronicle, The Athletic and AOL Fanhouse. She was has won several awards, including the WBCA's Mel Greenberg Media Award, presented annually to a member of the media who has best displayed commitment to advancing the role of the media in women's basketball. For previous Michelle Smith features on, visit the archives page.