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WNBA coach cautioned UCLA’s Charisma Osborne about life in league

Charisma Osborne speaks with UCLA coach Cori Close during the NCAA Tournament. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

UCLA senior guard Charisma Osborne is forgoing the 2023 WNBA Draft, electing instead to use her extra year of NCAA eligibility.

As a WNBA coach told Osborne and UCLA coach Cori Close, the decision could be a smart move.

To provide her players with the best possible advice about their futures, Close frequently touches base with WNBA coaches. One coach offered Close and Osborne a stark assessment about life in the professional league, the New York Times reported Sunday.

“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?” Close said, quoting the coach. “Or does she want to have none of those things and fly Southwest with us?”

The latter scenario would hold true only if Osborne made the cut for a WNBA roster. The 12-team league is facing a roster crunch, with just 36 draft picks and 144 roster spots but more than 80 players on the draft entry list.

“We have all these people growing and mastering their craft, with no place to go in the United States,” Close said. “It’s just really sad that those are the conversations we’re having to have with our league and our college game being so healthy and vibrant and growing.”

Osborne had declared for the draft after UCLA’s Sweet 16 exit from the NCAA Tournament, but the 5-9 point guard has withdrawn her name. The WNBA Draft will be held at 7 p.m. ET on Monday in New York, and if draft entrants choose to withdraw, they must do so at least five days before (so, by Thursday).

Los Angeles Sparks guard Lexie Brown pushed back against some of the criticism of the WNBA, tweeting Tuesday: “Y’all really think we don’t have massage therapists, trainers, and nutritionists?”

Still, future top draft picks are weighing their options, including Iowa junior Caitlin Clark and UConn junior Paige Bueckers. Most of this season’s juniors and seniors have the option to use the extra year of eligibility granted to college athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tennessee senior Tamari Key laid out reasons players might choose to stay after she and her teammate Rickea Jackson opted to return for another season with the Lady Vols. Among them was the name, image and likeness policy, which opens up NIL deals to students.

Key also mentioned chartered flights, which have been a sticking point for WNBA players over the last few seasons.

“I’m not speaking for everyone when I say this, but I’m sure if you asked collegiate women’s basketball players that are staying an extra year, you would probably get an answer similar to any of these,” she wrote.