OU's Romero Osby feeling right at home in Norman
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2013
1/12/13 at 6:58 AM
Related story: OSU freshman Marcus Smart awaits first Bedlam contest.
NORMAN - Mississippi remains Romero Osby's first home.
He'll tell you about its Southern hospitality, easy pace and the fact that "you don't have to worry about gun shots, unless it's somebody back off in the woods shooting at a deer."
He wouldn't mind returning someday.
Right now, though, there are matters to attend to at Oklahoma. He is the leading scorer and rebounder on a 10-3 OU team which hosts 11-3 Oklahoma State at 2 p.m. Saturday.
It is the most important game of the Sooners' season to date, and he is their most important player. Not just because he averages 13 points and 6.5 rebounds, and leads his team in blocked shots and charges taken, and has made his last 31 free throws.
" 'Ro' has been terrific from day one in terms of his body language, his message to everyone else, his attitude, his focus. He's an ideal team guy," OU coach Lon Kruger said. "He's a coach's dream."
Osby is glad to oblige. He's true to his Mississippi roots that way.
Besides, it honors his second home.
"He loves Oklahoma," Daryl Osby, Romero's father said from Meridian, Miss., where he teaches and coaches high school and junior high basketball. "The people are very friendly. It's kind of like Meridian. Everybody speaks to you and waves at you when they see you. You can go some places and people are always in some hustle and bustle. Not there. Not here, either. He always talks about how much he loves it."
The only thing Osby knew about Norman before he visited three years ago was that he'd be in for a surprise. Jeff Capel, OU's coach at the time, told him so.
"Coach Capel said he had interviewed in Atlanta, not Norman, so when he got here he thought it would be different," Osby recalled. "He was right. I thought it would be like Starkville (Mississippi State's home), more of a country town. But Norman is a city. It's nice. It's still flat land like Mississippi. But there are great people, very versatile people. It still has that Southern hospitality, but it's mixed with Midwest culture."
Osby was on the market at the time because things hadn't worked out at Mississippi State. He had been a two-year reserve for the Bulldogs. It wasn't exactly what he envisioned after choosing the comforts of home (Starkville is 75 miles from Meridian) over offers from programs like Kansas, Louisville and Tennessee coming out of high school.
"You feel like you have an opportunity to walk in and start as a freshman, and it's a disappointment when in your mind you feel like coaches told you one thing and it was different," Daryl Osby said. "Romero wasn't very happy. By the middle of his sophomore year, he started saying, 'I don't know if I want to stay here.'
"I said, 'OK, let's finish the season and then weigh our options. If you still feel that way, we can move on from there.' "
Osby had OU in the back of his mind since Capel recruited him out of Meridian's North Lauderdale High.
"I had a good relationship with Coach Capel, and with Rod Barnes, who used to be an assistant here and was once head coach at Ole Miss," Osby said. "When I decided to transfer, South Florida and VCU were high on me. But I was sold on Coach Capel."
"I've always known their history," Daryl Osby said. "I remember Mookie Blaylock going to the national championship against 'Danny and the Miracles.' I knew they went to the Final Four in 2002, and lost to Carmelo Anthony in the Elite Eight. I've been watching basketball since I was young, so I knew about their tradition. I remembered Wayman Tisdale and Billy Tubbs and all those teams."
The coach and program were slam dunks. All Osby needed was reassurance about leaving his comfort zone. Complicating matters was a relationship with his girlfriend since high school. They'd been soul mates since grade school. They had a baby girl Osby's sophomore year at Mississippi State.
All Osby could do was visit OU.
"I just fell in love," he said. "The whole aura of this place was great."
There were rough patches. Osby's girlfriend-turned-fiancée and daughter stayed in Mississippi. He stayed on the bench his first season at OU per NCAA transfer rules. Then Capel was fired.
Osby was too attached to the program to do anything but give the new coach a chance, however.
It worked out fine.
"Me and Alex Brown, our trainer, just talked about this," Osby said. "The best thing that ever could have happened for me was Coach Kruger. And he really kind of has been, because he has helped me develop into more of a man."
So has a reunion with his family. His fiancée became Shalonda Osby last May. She has relocated to Oklahoma along with their daughter, Saniya.
"Even though Romero was able to talk to his wife and child, he was always worried about the baby," Daryl Osby said. "I see a calmness over him now. Now he has his family with him. Now he can go home and hash out if practice wasn't good that day, or any other problems. He can watch his child grow up, see her every day. It makes a big difference."
This week, when Osby was asked about the Bedlam game, he rattled off names and numbers like someone who grew up around Bedlam. Like a home-state player.
It is, in a sense, what he has become.
"I wouldn't mind having a house back home. It's so laid back and chill out in the country," Osby said. "But I'll always come back to Norman, and it will always feel like home as well."
Original Print Headline: Intro to Bedlam
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU's Romero Osby, a Mississippi State transfer, leads the Sooners in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and charges taken. BRYAN TERRY/The Oklahoman