LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA's Charisma Osborne appeared to have the final home game most players dream about last March 20 when she scored a career-high 36 points and got the Bruins into the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
It turns out it wasn't Osborne's last appearance at Pauley Pavilion. She decided the WNBA can wait for one more year and opted for a fifth and final season in Westwood.
“I think Charisma came back because she just felt like there was some more to do. She wanted to finish (with the tank on) empty and accomplish all that she came here to do. She’s looking really good so far,” coach Cori Close said.
The senior guard who was a projected first-round pick talked to Close after the Bruins' eventual loss to South Carolina in the Sweet 16. When Osborne asked Close what she thought she should do, Close said the final decision was Osborne's to make.
"When she left, my mom said she’s just not done yet. And that was just my mom’s perception of it. But she happened to be right,” Close said.
Even though Osborne answered questions after the March 20 game against Oklahoma as if it was her home finale, she had been leaning toward coming back. After she made her decision, Osborne said one of the determining factors was the full college experience.
“After we lost in the Sweet 16, I had to really decide. It was in the back of my mind what I wanted to do but I think in those last 48 hours I was like, come back,” she said.
Osborne was the only player in the Pac-12 last season to lead her team in scoring (15.9 points per game), rebounding (5.9 per game) and steals (1.4 per game). She started all 36 games and was fifth in the conference in scoring, including eight games of 20 points or more. The Bruins won seven of eight games last season when she scored at least 20.
She also had six double-doubles, second among guards in the conference.
Osborne's return put UCLA firmly in the conversation about the nation's top teams coming into the season. The Bruins are ranked fourth in the preseason Associated Press Top 25. It is their highest preseason position in the poll's history and their highest spot since they were fourth on Jan. 2, 1979.
UCLA had the nation's top-ranked recruiting class last season, but the entire roster didn't begin to gel until late in the season, when it got to the title game in the Pac-12 tournament then made a run to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019.
Despite being the conference's highest-ranked team in the preseason, the Bruins were picked to finish second behind Utah.
“I think we try not to talk too much about it. We have to prove to ourselves that we are a top-five team. And I think that we’ve been doing that and working towards that every day in practice,” Osborne said.
Sophomore Kiki Rice will team up with Osborne again in the backcourt after averaging 11.6 points last season. UCLA also got a huge addition when center Lauren Betts transferred from Stanford.
The Bruins have a tough nonconference schedule. There are two Big Ten teams, including Monday's opener against Purdue, and three ranked teams — No. 3 UConn, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 18 Florida State. There is also a road game against Arkansas.
“We’re not playing to be the best in November or December. We’re playing to be our best in March,” Close said. “You have to look at all of those things as barometers, well, is the number real or not? Or do we have some work to do to live up to our talent? Really, that just shows potential and talent level. We have a lot of potential and a lot of talent level. Now, what are we going to do with that?”
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball