April 16, 2024 

Against the odds, Phoenix Mercury land Charisma Osborne in third round

Osborne isn't concerned with draft position, only making the team

Around this time a year ago, Charisma Osborne was a projected top 10 draft pick, who elected to forgo the draft and return to UCLA for a fifth year. Now, she is the 25th overall pick of the 2024 WNBA Draft, landing with the Phoenix Mercury.

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Although the former UCLA guard was drafted well below where experts projected her to be picked both in 2023 and 2024, Osborne may have landed in a more favorable situation than those taken ahead of her. Despite her tumble down the draft boards, Osborne isn’t worried about where she was selected, just what she can do to perform her best in training camp.

“I think going in the third round, that’s just a number, and I think I’m just going to go out there and do my best and show what I can,” Osborne said. “I’m really confident in my skills and my abilities. Obviously, I’ve earned this moment to be here.”

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Osborne finishes her career with the Bruins having averaged 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. She is a four-time all-Pac-12 player and two-time Pac-12 All-Defense Team member. After five seasons in Westwood, Osborne ended as UCLA’s second-all-time leading scorer, while also appearing in the most games in program history (153).

Despite initially deciding to enter the 2023 WNBA Draft, Osborne ultimately pulled her name following UCLA’s Sweet 16 loss to South Carolina. In her extra year with the Bruins, she led the team to a 27–7 record and No. 10 ranking in the final AP poll. The Bruins’ year was complete with a third-place finish in the Pac-12 and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Individually, Osborne made strides, hitting career highs in field goal percentage, steals and assists. The extra year also gave her more time to work on her mentality and leadership with this year’s young Bruins squad. Leveling up these skills helped turn her into a more pro-ready prospect. 

“If an outsider didn’t do their homework, they might say, ‘Well, she would have been drafted higher if she had gone out last year.’ But you know what, I’m not sure she would have been as pro-ready, and the efficiency that she has developed the leadership skills, she has honed in on,” UCLA head coach Cori Close told The Next. “She’s an incredibly fiery competitor, but sometimes her emotions in the past got the best of her, and that never happened this year. She really honed in on sort of that neutral thinking and then, she played a lot more point for us now. She’s able to play the one or the two at a really high level and be comfortable in both spots, and I’m not sure she was there a year ago.”

UCLA guard Charisma Osborne dribbles the ball up the court.
UCLA’s Charisma Osborne joins the WNBA after a successful five-year career with the Bruins (Photo credit: @UCLAWBB on X, formerly known as Twitter).

For the Mercury, who have spent a considerable amount of money maintaining their core and bringing in new pieces, keeping rookies on the roster might be the most cost-effective method to ensure the organization stays under the salary cap. This gives Osborne even more of a chance to make the final roster, something she may not have been able to find elsewhere.

The Mercury declined to make any member of the staff available to discuss the draft.

In Phoenix, Osborne will have the opportunity to learn from two superstar guards in Diana Taurasi and Natasha Cloud. Even at age 41, Taurasi is still a legitimate offensive threat who can make defenses pay. Cloud is a scrappy, defensive-minded guard who is very similar to Osborne as both excel as elite defenders and two-way players.

“I’m so excited to learn from both of them,” Osborne said of Taurasi and Cloud. “Obviously, they have a lot of great guards there, and Diana Taurasi is like the GOAT of basketball, so to be able to learn from her is going to be so fun and I can’t wait for that. Natasha Cloud, I love her energy. I loved when she used to play for Mystics and she was so fun to watch.”

“I remember when Jordin Canada got drafted to Seattle, and I knew she was going to be able to be mentored by Sue Bird and I was like, ‘How amazing is that,’ and that has paid dividends 10 times over,” Close said. “And now, look at what Charisma is getting to do. She’s going to be able to learn from and be mentored by Diana Taurasi. I mean, come on now, like that’s just incredible.”

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It won’t just be veterans Osborne has to compete with for a roster spot. In addition to Christyn Williams and Amy Atwell, who are both guards the Mercury signed to training camp contracts this offseason, there’s also another rookie guard in Nebraska’s Jaz Shelley who will challenge Osborne for a permanent position.

There’s still a lot that can happen with Osborne and the Mercury’s roster before the season officially gets underway, but for now, Osborne is taking it all in and embracing the new, exciting opportunity that awaits her in the Valley.

“Obviously since being a kid I’ve always wanted to play in the WNBA,” Osborne said. “To have this opportunity means the absolute world to me, and I’m just excited to go out to Phoenix and get started.”

Written by Tia Reid

Tia Reid covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. Her other work has also appeared on NCAA.com, College Gym News, Cronkite News/Arizona PBS and the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. Tia is a senior at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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