Mississippi State was supposed to be the launching point for Romero Osby's promising basketball career.
Out of high school, he had offers from Kentucky and Kansas, among other national powers, but wanted to stay close to home. So the Meridian, Miss., star, considered one of the top forwards in the nation, chose to play just two hours away.
But instead of a local safe haven to sculpt his natural skills, Mississippi State turned into a nightmarish two-year ride where he never got to showcase them.
“Mississippi State was kind of a waste of my time because I didn't really get to where I wanted to,” Osby said. “And I really didn't get an opportunity to show what I could do like I wanted to.”
In 71 games over two seasons, Osby started three, never averaging more than 4.3 points or 2.6 rebounds.
And even worse, Osby's supreme confidence, the thing that made high school players fear him and college coaches want him, was gone.
“Yeah, it was,” he said. “It shattered my confidence a lot.”
For any chance at redirecting his derailed career, Osby needed out of Starkville. And he got a reprieve from Jeff Capel, Oklahoma's coach at the time.
“I think this will be the rebirth of Romero Osby,” Capel said at the time of Osby's transfer. “He was not really able to show a lot of the things he can do in his two years at Mississippi State. We recruited him out of high school and I loved him. I'm excited about the opportunity to coach him.”
Osby arrived in Norman a struggling player, looking to restructure his physical and mental game.
And during what he called possibly his toughest year of basketball, when he could practice but not play, Osby credits Capel for rebuilding his game.
“That one year with Coach, he really pumped a lot of confidence back into me,” Osby said. “It was tough at the time, but sitting out that year was good for me.”
Entering 2011, Osby was finally ready to reward Capel's trust with on-court production. But just when his revamped career was getting ready to relaunch, the guy who had saved it had his thrown into question.
Capel was fired by Oklahoma on March 14, 2011. Lon Kruger was hired as the Sooners' next basketball coach two weeks later.
“Coach Capel was a great coach to me and a great guy who brought me in,” Osby said. “But once I did some research, and my dad already knew who Coach Kruger was, I was put at ease.”
And one meeting with Kruger, where the coach worked him out one-on-one, confirmed Osby's positive feelings.
“He was rebounding for me, running all over the gym, and that made me respect him,” Osby said. “At his age, he didn't have to do that. As long as he's been around, he didn't have to do that. But for him to do that, it showed me what kind of person he was and sold me.”
So Osby showed Kruger what kind of player he had become.
Last season, as a junior, the 6-foot-8 junior was finally given an opportunity to shine. Starting all 31 games, he averaged 12.9 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds, earning honorable mention All-Big 12. He scored in double-digits in each of the final seven games.
“It almost felt like my freshman year,” Osby said. “It was my first time playing significant minutes and having a key role on the team.”
And now, far removed from his two-year downward spiral at Mississippi State, Osby feels ready for huge senior season.
His stated team goals — “a Big 12 championship and NCAA berth.” His stated individual goals — “Big 12 player of the year.”
And he wants to do it all at the place he calls his new home.
“My wife's here, my daughter's here, we live here,” Osby said. “Norman, Oklahoma, is where we live. It feels kind of weird, but at the same time, I've loved and enjoyed my three years here and I want to end it the right way.”