FAYETTEVILLE — Gabe Osabuohien estimated he took about 25 charges as a senior at Southwest Christian Academy in Little Rock, but he’s not sure of the exact number.
“I didn’t count ‘em in high school, I just took ‘em,” Osabuohien said. “But it was definitely a lot.”
Osabuohien is now a sophomore forward on the University of Arkansas basketball team, where charges taken are counted by the coaching staff.
According to Arkansas’ statistics, Osabuohien has taken 18 charges in 33 career games, including a team-high 10 in 13 games this season despite being ninth among the Razorbacks in minutes played.
“It’s the kamikaze effect,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “You’re sacrificing for the team, and I love guys that do that.”
Osabuohien took his latest charge when he drew a foul from Texas A&M forward John Walker with 11:19 left in the Razorbacks’ 73-71 victory over the Aggies last Saturday in Reed Arena.
“It’s a great feeling,” Osabuohien said of drawing a charge. “Your teammates come to pick you up and you’re going to the other side of the floor.”
Osabuohien, who came to Little Rock from Toronto as a high school sophomore, credited Charles Baker with helping him understand the importance of taking charges.
Baker, in his first season as an assistant at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was Southwest Christian Academy’s coach when Osabuohien played for the Lions.
“Coach Baker told me that taking charges was one of the biggest things that would help me get on the floor in college,” Osabuohien said. “So I definitely wanted to use that to translate to the college game.”
Hustle plays — especially taking charges — got Osabuohien into the playing rotation late season and have kept him in it. He’s averaging 12.7 minutes and has played in all 13 games off the bench this season after averaging 6.8 minutes in 20 games as a freshman.
In his first significant playing time as a Razorback, Osabuohien drew two charges in 17 minutes in Arkansas’ 81-65 victory over South Carolina last season.
“Gabe probably had the most impact on the game,” Anderson said at the time. “His energy just shot throughout this whole team.”
Osabuohien finished last season with eight charges taken in 136 minutes to tie for second on the team with Dustin Thomas — one behind Daniel Gafford’s nine. This season Osabuohien’s 10 charges have come in 165 minutes.
“Gabe is a team player and he knows what it takes to win,” Arkansas junior forward Adrio Bailey said. “He’s willing to sacrifice his body in order for our team to come out on top.”
After Osabuohien took two charges in the Razorbacks’ 73-70 victory over Texas State on Dec. 22, Gafford gave him a nickname while talking to the media.
“We might as well call him charge-taking Gabe, because that’s what he does every time he comes into the game,” Gafford said.
Osabuohien said he watched video of what Gafford said about him.
“That was pretty funny. I laughed when I saw it online,” Osabuohein said.
“I don’t have a nickname. If you want to call me ‘Charge-taking Gabe’ I don’t have a problem with that.”
Based on responses from several SEC teams, Osabuohien has taken the second-most charges in the conference this season behind the 15 in 315 minutes by Alabama starting sophomore guard Herbert Jones, who set the Crimson Tide’s record last season with 23.
Alabama coach Avery Johnson said it takes mental and physical toughness along with a competitive spirit for a player to be good at drawing charges.
“Just a no-fear attitude that whatever the results are we’ll live with it, but I’m giving up my body,” Johnson said. “Those guys have that type of makeup.”
Johnson said it’s impressive for Osabuohien to lead Arkansas in charges taken considering he’s not a starter.
“As a coach, we want to know what we’re going to get from our guys consistently,” Johnson said. “So knowing you can have a guy like that coming off your bench and bringing that to the table, it makes a coach sleep a little easier at night because we have so many things to think about.”
Anderson said he took a lot of charges when he was a point guard at Tulsa and that he considers it one of the best things a player can do to help his team.
“It puts a personal foul on the other team, and it’s a team foul,” Anderson said. “It’s a turnover and it gives you the opportunity to get the basketball.
“For us, it’s real important because we’re extending the floor trying to get people out of control. They think they’ve got something there, but all of a sudden it closes in.
“I put a lot of value in it.”
Osabuohien, who is averaging 2.8 points and 3.3 rebounds, said being a good help-side defender is a key to being in position to take charges along with realize there will be some pain involved.
“You need to have a blue-collar mindset — which is what Coach A preaches — about being able to give up your body for the rest of the team,” Osabuohien said. “Charges are big plays — momentum changers.
“It’s something I take pride in. It’s not a stat in the boxscore, but it’s a big stat to my coaches and teammates, and that’s all that matters to me. That’s one way I definitely can impact the game.
“It’s footwork along with being able to see the floor and see where the ball is at, along with being not too close to your defender and being ready to help your teammates.”
Anderson said Osabuohien has developed a knack for knowing how and when to draw charges.
“Gabe can see and read the floor,” Anderson said. “I think his instincts put him in position to just be at the right place at the right time.”