Unshakable, except for her tooth, Charisma Osborne claims ownership of crunch time
Charisma Osborne felt her left front tooth shake. Thank goodness for her bright green braces, which kept the tooth in place. But blood gushed down her chin. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Anxiety trickled through her body and she couldn't calm down.
The 5-foot-9 guard had been smacked in the mouth by the elbow of a 6-foot post while mixing it up down low for a rebound during Windward's (Los Angeles) state quarterfinal against rival Sierra Canyon last season.
Osborne's coaches thought she might be done. But with Windward down 18 entering the third quarter of a win-or-go-home half, the 16-year-old then-sophomore had one thought: Her team needed her. "Charisma," she told herself. "You have to step it up."
She dried the blood with a towel and hopped back onto the court. She demanded the ball, raining 3-pointer after 3-pointer, dropping 18 points to help Windward pull out a 68-65 overtime victory.
The next morning, she visited the orthodontist. He shook his head, amazed, shocked that she kept playing. He shouldn't have been. You can't pull someone with a name like Charisma Osborne off the floor.
Attack, attack, attack
Sixteen years ago, Chaka Ferrell sat patiently in the waiting room for her final ob-gyn appointment. She'd soon have a baby girl. The plan was to name her Aniya.
Then she heard a woman call for her daughter. Charisma, the woman said, the syllables softly rolling. Chaka was enamored. The words were beautiful, meaningful, bouncing with energy. Charisma would be her girl's name: A gift from God.
Chaka didn't know that the girl would one day morph into the 22nd-ranked basketball player in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2019 class and garner offers from her pick of Pac-12 powerhouses and beyond; or that she'd lead Windward to the CIF state Division I championship and a 30-4 record, following the lead of UCLA's Jordin Canada, the last great point guard to blossom in the program.
It was always clear, though, that Chaka's girl had go. Osborne started swimming at age 5. And in preschool, while other kids rocked back and forth on the swings, Osborne climbed all the way to the top of the poles that held the swingset together. One time Osborne refused to come down. The principal called Ferrell to the school.
"Charisma!" Ferrell yelled, arriving at the swingset. "What's going on? Get down!"
"No, Mom," Charisma said, her hair flowing in the wind, her tiny hands clutching on. "It's way more fun up here!"
By 9, Osborne was showing up the boys on her local rec team, earning MVP honors at her first-ever all-boys tournament in Las Vegas. The boys stopped passing her the ball, even when she was wide open on the wing. They had enough of her diving for the ball, running down the floor and laying the ball in.
"They started getting jealous of her. She took somebody's spot," said her father, Derek. "One thing about Charisma, she never wants to be outdone. If somebody steals the ball from her, she'll be right there chasing the ball down and taking it back from you."
Her freshman year at Windward, she pulled up from the volleyball 10-foot line during a game and drained the shot. Her coaches were baffled at first. But as the season progressed, she kept nailing deeper than deep shots and there was nothing anyone could say. Last season, she averaged 20.5 points a game and sank 88 3s.
"Her range is just not normal," Windward coach Vanessa Nygaard said. "But it's normal for her."
Osborne is just as lethal driving to the basket, taking contact and scoring the and-one. Nygaard compares her scoring prowess to the likes of Allen Iverson and Cappie Pondexter: versatile, strong and consistent. But Osborne rebounds and blocks shots, too.
During the spring of her freshman year, she jumped on a set of boxes 54 inches high. She hadn't done any serious weight training before then.
"Her athleticism is spellbinding," Nygaard said. "I'm a former Stanford player. I think of the Ogwumikes, who are much bigger than her, but Charisma has that same level of athleticism as Chiney and Nneka."
"She's best when she's in attack mode," Nygaard said. "Just attack, attack, attack."
Ready to take over
The truth is, Osborne is shy. She's humble and silly and quiet. She loves her teammates, dogs and math class. She plays the keyboard and wants to learn the trumpet. She'd rather blend in the background.
But when she's on the court, Charisma cannot be contained.
Windward was facing Ventura High School in a regional final last season. Osborne slid left and right, hardly coming up for air on defense. Wherever her player went, she went. Osborne limited her to 10 points.
"She was just on her like a jacket," Nygaard said.
Osborne also managed to drop 35 points, making five 3-pointers in the 61-43 victory, prompting Ventura coach Ann Larson to tell the Los Angeles Times: "Osborne's a beast."
She idolizes Kobe Bryant, not just because he can score from anywhere and not just because he can guard anyone. It's because he's clutch in close moments.
That's what Osborne aspires to do.
"I don't like to lose. Who likes to lose?" Osborne said. "If we're losing, I'm like, OK, I have to do this to get back in the game, or I have to do that, to make it close. Something just clicks in my head."
That happened during the state championship game against Sacramento McClatchy. Windward was struggling to bring the ball up due to McClatchy's physical, full-court pressure.
Osborne, playing the two, switched to the point and took over. She bobbed and weaved through double and triple teams, not only dropping 26 points, five rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots, but finding her teammates before the trap collapsed on her in the 53-41 win.
"They were trying to get her off her game. They were trying to get in her head. She took all those hits in a game that was really important," said former WNBA star Ebony Hoffman, now Windward's assistant coach. "She showed the type of player she's getting ready to turn into."