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UCLA women’s basketball’s leading scorer, Charisma Osborne, has decided to return to college for a fifth season after initially declaring for the WNBA Draft. Her decision stems, partially, from the harsh reality of women’s professional basketball when compared to the collegiate level.
Osborne, a former five-star recruit in the Class of 2019, was the fifth-ranked guard in the country and the No. 22 player overall. She chose to stay in her home state of California and play for the Bruins over offers from USC, Louisville, Duke and Ohio State, among others.
In four years in Westwood, Osborne has averaged just over 15 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Her scoring prowess was a crucial part of UCLA’s Sweet Sixteen run in 2022.
Now, after four years with the program, Osborne is set to graduate in June.
Osborne was initially ready to turn pro after walking the stage and getting her diploma. She entered the WNBA Draft pool earlier this month and was projected as a top-10 pick.
However, that is no longer the case. Osborne is taking advantage of the blanket waiver granted to all spring athletes during the COVID-hindered 2020 season and running it back.
Charisma Osborne’s decision is largely rooted in the bleak reality of the WNBA.
As of 2022, the average salary in the WNBA was $102,751 among 151 athletes. The highest-paid players in the league hover around $200/250,000. A top-ten pick, like Osborne, would be set to make somewhere in the ballpark of $72,000 per year over the course of a three-year rookie deal.
Many WNBA athletes have to play overseas during the offseason to make the dream work.
In the NIL era, a star college athlete like Osborne can get pretty close — or even exceed — that rookie salary number through endorsement deals and sponsorships. Bruins head coach Cori Close told The Athletic that she expects her players to average between $50,000 and $70,000 in NIL deals each year.
Finances factored into Osborne’s decision. As did the discrepancy in amenities and day-to-day life in the WNBA compared to UCLA.
Close often speaks with her WNBA counterparts about the league and its operations. According to Kris Rhim of the New York Times, one unnamed coach asked a very blunt question about Osborne’s future.
Does Charisma want to make more money and stay in college and get massages, fly charter, have everything paid for, have a nutritionist and have her own trainers that are paid for? Or does she want to have none of those things and fly Southwest with us?— Cori Close, quoting the WNBA Coach, via The New York Times
In the end, after long talks with the people she values most both in and out of the basketball world, Osborn decided that one last year in college would suit her better than the WNBA. For now.