HOLLYWOOD — When Skyla Osceola is healthy and playing a lot of minutes, she can be a force on the floor.
Proof of that came in her freshman season on the Nova Southeastern University women’s basketball team two years ago when the standout guard from the Hollywood Reservation played in every game, led the Sharks in assists and finished second in the nation in the best assist-turnover ratio in NCAA Division II.
Turn the clock back even further and more evidence can be found in her high school days at American Heritage in Plantation where she was the Patriots general who could dictate the pace of a game.
Unfortunately, her health hasn’t always cooperated.
Similar to some of her other injury-plagued seasons in her career, the 2019-20 season at NSU, which wrapped up in March, won’t be found on Osceola’s list of favorites. It started out with plenty of promise. She got the front row, center seat in the team photo, and she poured in 17 points in a preseason exhibition game against Division I Florida Atlantic University. But the good, early momentum – which she had worked so hard to attain after sitting out the previous season due to injury – didn’t last long.
A variety of injuries interrupted her season and hindered her effectiveness when she did play. Knee, rib and head injuries were the culprits.
“Not my greatest moments,” Osceola said in an email to the Tribune.
She appeared in only 15 of the team’s 28 games, and started just six. She averaged 16 minutes and 2.7 points per game.
“Injuries played a huge factor. They were injuries out of my control, but I had to do the best I could with them. It was tough and I’m not happy about this season, but I know what I got to do to be better for my team and myself,” she said.
The Sharks struggled with injuries and consistency, posting a 14-14 record that included an early exit in the Sunshine State Conference tournament.
“Overall, our season was disappointing due to the number of injuries our players sustained throughout the season,” NSU coach LeAnn Freeland-Curry said in an email to the Tribune.
“ In her limited action, Skyla did impact the game very positively. For two seasons, she has been consistently very positive with her plus/minus statistic. When she is in the game, we usually either improve a lead or take the lead back.”
Having sat out a couple of seasons due to injuries in her career, Osceola is all too familiar with how missing significant amounts of playing time makes it that much more difficult to bounce back, but she is determined to be healthy come opening tip of next season as a redshirt junior.
“Conditioning is going to play a huge factor in how great I want to be,” she said. “Since the injuries it’s hard to stay in shape and that’s what I lack the most right now. I just need to get in the best shape I can right now and that’s what I’m doing.”
The team is eager to have a healthy Osceola, too.
“We are optimistic that Skyla will be healthy next season,” Freeland-Curry said. “She has dedicated herself to getting in the best shape of her life this summer, so we are hopeful this could reduce injury moving forward. I know Skyla wants to be on the floor.”
Certainly, injuries have been obstacles throughout her career, but the daughter of Marl and Francine Osceola has always maintained a positive attitude thanks to a solid foundation of faith and family.
“The key for me to staying positive is keeping my faith strong,” she said. “I know there’s a reason why I went through a rough patch and it allowed me to get my priorities straight. Keeping my family and friends close to me and keep building my relationships helps me keep going. My determination comes from wanting to be the best that I can be for my team, coaches, family, and myself, but most of all for God. I feel like I am back on his path instead of my own and I’m all in.”
“Injuries are always very difficult, however, I do feel Skyla tackles the injury with the right mindset,” Freeland-Curry said. “She is very mature and does everything she needs to do to return to play as quickly as possible. I believe her family is very encouraging and supportive through her injury which helps her tremendously.”
Osceola, who is majoring in exercise and sports science and on track to graduate next spring, doesn’t take for granted the support she has received on her rollercoaster journey.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout my collegiate career so far,” she said. “It’s been a bumpy ride, but nobody said it was easy trying to be great, right? It’s such a blessing knowing I have support no matter what. My support system is truly like no other. Thank you God for making this all possible.”