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How We Do It in the Pacific Northwest

Mar 24 2017
Photo by
Elaine Thompson/AP Images
Photo by
Elaine Thompson/AP Images

The University of Washington women’s basketball team, led by seniors Chantel Osahor and Kelsey Plum, is 29–5 and will play Mississippi State in the Sweet 16 on Friday. Earlier this week, Chantel and Kelsey sat down together to break down their sister-sister relationship, discuss the state of women’s basketball and explain why the Seattle-based TV series Grey’s Anatomy has special significance to their team’s postseason run.


Chantel Osahor
I have a theory about our team.

Kelsey Plum
I feel like I know where this is going.

Chantel
It’s a good theory!

Kelsey
Does it, by any chance, have to do with … Grey’s Anatomy?

Chantel
Yes, and the world needs to know this….

Kelsey
I’ll admit — it’s not a bad theory. But we have a Sweet Sixteen game coming up … and I know what happens when you get going, like really get going, on Grey’s….

Chantel
Oh, come on … it’s a good show! I’m actually rewatching it right now from the beginning for like the fourth time.

Kelsey
Right now no one knows what we’re talking about, so I’ll try to explain: Chantel loves Grey’s Anatomy, O.K. She might be addicted. I mean, I love it too, but she’s the president of its fan club.

Chantel
All true so far.

Kelsey
And it’s really cool because when Chantel and I met as freshmen, watching Grey’s in the dorm was like the primary way we bonded.

Chantel
Kels, are you going to tell everybody my theory or am I?

Kelsey
Well, you came up with it … and I’ve learned to never get in the way when you’re telling your theories, or stories, or when you drive to the basket….

Chantel
O.K., so this is basically it: If you’ve ever seen the show, you know that Meredith Grey is the star. The show is named after her for crying out loud. She has the most lines and the most scenes and all of that. Everyone loves Meredith—

Kelsey
And you think I’m Meredith….

Chantel
Well, yeah, you are! You’re our Meredith. I mean, you just broke the record for most points in the history of women’s college basketball. But more than that … I’ll put in another way: When we came to UW as freshmen, the Alaska Airlines Arena was … a quiet place. We had fans, but, yeah … not too many.

Kelsey
Yup, way more people went to the men’s games. We were kinda secondary to them.

Elaine Thompson/AP Images

Chantel
And now we’re seniors and our home games … the whole thing is a show. Like 10,000 people cheer us on. It’s loud. I think people appreciate the way we play … how well we shoot it, how we play tough defense—

Kelsey
How much fun we have—

Chantel
For sure. And a big reason for all of that is Kelsey. The people are coming to see Kelsey … I mean, they’re coming to see Meredith. Because she’s the star.

Kelsey
Now you’re just embarrassing me. You were not this nice to me when we first met!

Chantel
Yeah, well, we barely knew each other!

Kelsey
I mean … remember that first night in the dorm? I thought you legit hated me. You were so hard to read.

Chantel
I remember — I think each of us was kinda holding back — like, scoping each other out.

Kelsey
Yeah, for sure. We were naive and young, just like our freshmen this year. (Love you, girls!)

Chantel
The thing is, I think you were just coming from a summer camp with USA Basketball. And you were like the hotshot recruit. But I couldn’t really hate on you! Because you were real modest about it. I noticed that. I couldn’t help but think that maybe you were putting on a front … like, Is that who you really are?

Kelsey
I was trying hard … maybe too hard. Haha. I remember when I talked about how excited I was about what we could build here in the next four years here, I don’t know … I was kind of expecting you to smile and agree with me, but you didn’t say much. I was like, Oh, no, what did I say wrong? Does she think—

Chantel
Yeah … I guess that’s true. My bad!

Kelsey
Haha. So, yeah, maybe we didn’t really “get” each other at first. It took time. And now it’s so cool to think about how close we’ve gotten over the years. Like one thing I’ve learned about you is that you’re not everyone’s BFF right away. You observe and observe … and observe — like really take in how people act and what’s going on around you.

Elaine Thompson/AP Images

Chantel
I just don’t like to rush to judgments. You know how strong-rooted I am in my opinions!

Kelsey
Oh my gosh, yeah I do. I remember at one of our first practices, how serious you were about playing on the perimeter and in the post. And looking back, it makes total sense.

Chantel
Don’t sleep on my three-point shooting! But yeah, we both had some growing up to do back then.

Kelsey
For sure, for sure. We grew up together.

Chantel
Yeah, and basketball was a big part of that. You can’t really have much success on the court without also having strong communication with your teammates. And from our first practice, you and I just clicked. We didn’t even have to talk.

Kelsey
What did Coach Nabes say a couple days ago? That we’re like John Stockton and Karl Malone?

Chantel
Like, Thanks, Coach — no pressure now! Hahaha, just playing … love you, Coach Nabes. But I like to think we’re … Chantel and Kelsey! Our pick-and-roll game is all our own. I could be in a gym with no lights on and still know where you were on the court. That’s how much it’s second nature now.

Kelsey
Well, we do have some set plays.

Chantel
Like Shaka!

Kelsey
Shaka, baby! That’s our play where Coach signals like he’s doing the Aloha thing with his hand — sticks his thumb and pinky finger out and then shakes his hand. It’s a read for Chantel to go back door.

Chantel
You’re just going to tell the world our playbook?!

Kelsey
Well, no one’s really stopped it yet. And anyway, if they sag down on you, I’m open. It’s just about spacing. It works.

Elaine Thompson/AP Images

Chantel
Well, I think the real reason it’s successful is because we have so much chemistry on offense. Not just me and you, but all of us. We’re just reading the defense and taking what they give us. When you know your teammates as well as we do, it’s pretty easy to just play, I guess … but it probably also helps that we have the best player in the country. The other night against Oklahoma, do you remember which bucket you broke the NCAA single-season scoring record on?

Kelsey
I wasn’t aware of it during the game, but I found out later. Honestly, I don’t care about that stuff. This season is about what we’re trying to do as a group — I wish everyone knew how awesome this group of girls is: the most unique, amazing, strange, funny, thoughtful teammates in the world.

Chantel
Oh, I know. We’re tight. Obviously a lot of us have had our share of difficulties throughout our time here, but to see how the women’s basketball culture has changed since we first stepped on campus … that’s probably the biggest thing for me.

Kelsey
Not just our students, but this university, and the whole city of Seattle, has supported us so much.

Chantel
Yeah, it’s beyond words. It’s something you and I dreamt of as freshmen. I know we dreamt of it, but we didn’t really think we’d be mentioned in the same breath with other big-time programs like South Carolina and Stanford and UConn. Well, no, wait: No one gets to be mentioned next to UConn….

Kelsey
It’s funny, I get that comment a lot! People ask me if I’m jealous, or whatever, that UConn gets more coverage than every other team. My answer is always the same: Absolutely not. UConn’s success speaks for itself.

Chantel
Yeah, I always tell people: We have to beat them first if we want to talk about them.

Kelsey
Huskies vs. Huskies! I’d be down for that….

Chantel
But for real, it’s like … they’re on another level. We’re good, but how long have we been good? A few years? UConn has been dominant for decades. They deserve everything they get.

Kelsey
Well, yeah … I think everyone can learn a lot from UConn’s success. Not even all the wins, but the culture they’ve built. We want to build that kind of culture here, too. If we can continue to win fans over, I know that’s a possibility.

Chantel
Amen.

Kelsey
And the fact that we both love this team and this university makes everything that much more special. Now I’m actually getting kinda sad … knowing that we’re in the last semester of our senior years. I’ll always cherish the time we’ve had with our teammates — our sisters — even more than the wins and the points and all of that.

Elaine Thompson/AP Images

Chantel
Wait, that sort of gives me an idea….

Kelsey
Is it a … theory?

Chantel
Just an idea! What if we gave out some team awards? You know, something fun.

Kelsey
YES. I’m in.

Chantel
Like, if I were to give an award for Class Clown on our team, that’d have to go to Jenna Moser. She’s legitimately the most sarcastic person you’ll ever meet. She has a comeback for everything.

Kelsey
True! And, hmmmm … Most Forgetful? Probably Hannah Johnson. She’s literally always forgetting her sneakers in her dorm room.

Chantel
Best Dancer?

Kelsey
Oh, c’mon, you’re just setting yourself up here. It’s you, obviously.

Chantel
I want to thank the Academy.…

But no, seriously, I’d give it to Aarion McDonald. She’s a freshman — she has the best moves. Any new dance comes out and she already knows it. If I see her do the Stanky Leg one more time on Snapchat though….

Elaine Thompson/AP Images

Kelsey
You realize how old we sound?

Chantel
News flash: We are old. Snapchat wasn’t a thing when we came in.

Kelsey
Do you want your award?

Chantel
I don’t know, do I? Hahaha.

Kelsey
Not to get emo here, but … everyone sees all your rebounds and your post play, but I legit think you’re the toughest player, mentally, in the country. Against Oklahoma, you destroyed their bigs by outsmarting them — not by outmuscling them. They were in foul trouble early, they were shook. That’s what people don’t always see that you do. The mental wizardry.

Chantel
Wizardry? LOL.

So does this mean I have to give you an award now? Well, actually, thinking about it, it’s an easy one: There’s nobody else in the country who I’d want on my team — to try to win a national championship with — than Kelsey. No one.

Kelsey
Let’s do it, then! Only if we can binge-watch Grey’s after, though … wait! You didn’t finish your Grey’s Anatomy theory. You left out the best part!

Chantel
Haha, you’re right. You tell it, though.

Kelsey
Alright, so Grey’s is centered around Meredith, right? She’s the star. But the person who really makes the show work … the true heart of the show … is Cristina Yang. Without Cristina, Meredith’s character isn’t the same. Meredith is lost without Cristina’s toughness … her quiet toughness. So that’s the theory: Over time — because there are like 13 seasons or something insane — you start realizing that you’re watching the show for Meredith, but you’re enjoying it for Cristina.

Right? Did I get it right?

Chantel
Yeah, good job, Kels. And it’s a perfect theory, because we’re in Seattle, Grey’s is in Seattle….

Kelsey
True, but hold up — I haven’t even gotten to the best part!

Chantel fits this analogy perfectly. Chantel “wows” people just like Cristina, but you don’t always see it coming. Like it’s easy to look at the stat sheet and see my scoring, but what really makes the game interesting is how Chantel is conducting the show — all the little things she’s doing that you don’t see. Without her, there’s no Grey’s.

Chantel
Now who’s trying to embarrass who?

Kelsey
That’s what I’m here for. I’ve got your back.

Chantel
Same.

Kelsey
I do think you might watch a little too much TV.

Chantel
Oh shush. But you know what would make this analogy perfect?

Kelsey
What’s that?

Chantel
Well, Grey’s has won a ton of Emmys, right?

Kelsey
You would know better than me.

Chantel
We need our Emmy now.

Kelsey
Yeah, something like: Best Huskies in March.

Chantel
I like the sound of that.