Charisma Osborne, Standord target leads Windward in California state title game

LOS ANGELES - JULY 27: Vanessa Nygaard
LOS ANGELES - JULY 27: Vanessa Nygaard /

SACRAMENTO — As tipoff neared for the California Girls Open Division Championship game — and with it, the true claim of being the best high school team in the state — Windward (Los Angeles) School head coach Vanessa Nygaard felt the usual nerves.

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She really didn’t remember how much she had eaten in the three weeks since finding out her team had made open and won the three Southern California regional games to get to Sacramento’s Golden1 Center.

But then her phone buzzed. And the former Stanford star had a text from her college coach, Tara VanDerveer, wishing her good luck.

“I told my assistants, ‘This is a good sign,’” Nygaard said.

Of course, it helps to have one of the top 2019 players in the country play one of her best games on the season. That would be Charisma Obsorne, who dropped 26 points — including making 6-of-8 3-pointers — to lead the Wildcats to a 58-47 win over Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) on Saturday night.

A 5-10 guard, Osborne is ranked 22nd by ESPN’s HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings Super 60, but has had her profile rise throughout her junior season, garnering interest in a variety of schools both in the Pac-12 and around the Power Five., A coach from California was spotted in the crowd Saturday night and Nygaard’s alma mater, Stanford, is also very interested in her, according to those around the program.

PALO ALTO, CA – FEBRUARY 09: Stanford Cardinals head coach Tara Vanderveer and the bench cheer a play by her team during the game between the Utah Utes and the Stanford Cardinals on Friday, February 9, 2018 at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PALO ALTO, CA – FEBRUARY 09: Stanford Cardinals head coach Tara Vanderveer and the bench cheer a play by her team during the game between the Utah Utes and the Stanford Cardinals on Friday, February 9, 2018 at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

But Nygaard has seen Osborne perform her best on the biggest stages, which culminated with a magical effort in Sacramento, where it seemed like she couldn’t miss from outside.

“When she’s shooting that well, you just tip the hat,” Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said. “That’s the lesser of two evils with her getting to the rim. She’s a terrific player not only with the ball, but without it as well. She did a great job reading screens and getting through stagger screens and zipper screens. She was fabulous today.”

Despite shooting the lowest 3-point percentage among Windward’s starters, Osborne doesn’t lack for confidence, which was obvious in her most audacious shot of the night. With less than five minutes left in the third quarter, Osborne didn’t hesitate to shoot from a step or two in front of the midcourt logo, drilling the 3-pointer from well behind the NBA 3-point line.

“I actually didn’t realize how far out I took it,” Osborne admitted. Her coach did, but she’s come to trust her star’s sky-high confidence.

“I remember in one of her first games her freshman year, we were playing in a tournament, she dribbled across half-court and they were playing a 2-3 zone, so she took a three inside of the jump circle and made it,” Nygaard said. “As long as they’re going in. if she misses, I’m like, ‘Attack the rim.’ If not, shoot it. Bombs away. How do I know if it’s a good shot?”

Should Osborne choose to attend Stanford, she’d be joining the star of the opponent for the night, Pinewood junior Hannah Jump. The 5-11 guard/forward verbally committed to the school five minutes from her high school a month ago, right when she got the offer.

“Stanford’s been a dream of mine ever since I can remember,” Jump said. “I’m so excited to be going there. To have [my college decision] taken care of is really nice, but I’m focused on next season first.”

Jump felt she “didn’t play my best game” in the state championship, scoring nine points on 4-of-9 shots from the field and only 1-of-3 from deep. Nygaard said her team focused on taking away 3-pointers from Pinewood, who led the state with 289 made threes.

“Every coach loves a shooter, and she is as pure of a shooter as I have seen,” Nygaard said of Jump, who led the team with 102 3-pointers made. “She gets her shot off really quick, lots of depth, lots of range. She has lots of savvy and smarts, can read things well.

“She’s just a really tough all-around player. People kind of think a player like that is just a 3-point shooter, but what I’ve seen, she’s done a lot.”

Exactly the type of player that VanDerveer would want to have in her program at Stanford, which is something Nygaard knows well. She played for the Cardinal from 1994-95 to 1997-98, reaching the Final Four in three-consecutive seasons.

Scheppler remembers Nygaard’s career there, as his daughter Kacey was in high school at that time and actually attended Stanford’s basketball camps that Nygaard helped lead as a college student.

“She was fun to watch, kind of gregarious and open and funny,” Scheppler said. “She improved a lot, like all of the Stanford players improve in their skillset when they’re there. They get better. They become better shooters, they drive better, they have a better sense of how to play.

“She was just one of those players that every coach really wants to have on your team — she gets boards, she’s physical, she’s tough, love to guard the other team’s best player. You need those types of players on your team.”

Nygaard still considers VanDerveer a “tremendous mentor” and Stanford assistant coach Kate Paye as “one of her best friends,” contacting them frequently throughout the season.

SACRAMENTO, CA – JUNE 20: Kate Paye /

“I feel really lucky to be able to call a Hall of Famer if I have a question,” Nygaard said. “Tara has cared about me since the day I committed to Stanford and always been there to help me however she could.”

She says VanDerveer and the other Stanford coaches haven’t been in contact with her any more than normal, but they have seen them play a bit more often in-person. That can be attributed to Osborne.

And while Stanford coaches couldn’t make it to the game, having lost in the Sweet 16 in Lexington on Friday and not arriving back in California until Saturday night, the Cardinal connection was evident in Sacramento on Saturday night.

But even with one — or, as Stanford hopes, two — future Cardinal on the floor, the former Stanford star is happy that all the signs led to the game going her team’s way.

“We feel that the basketball goddesses smiled upon us today,” Nygaard said.