KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Romero Osby isn't your typical men's college basketball player.
The Mississippi State transfer sat out last season and is projected to be one of Oklahoma's cornerstone players in coach Lon Kruger's first season at OU.
But Osby has more on his plate than attending classes and playing basketball. Osby is a father.
Osby's daughter, Saniya, turns age 2 three days after Christmas. She lives with his girlfriend, Shalonda Truman, in Meridan, Miss., his hometown.
“To know someone actually needs you is a great feeling,” Osby said. “Being a father you're responsible for somebody else's life. I'm excited, knowing eventually I'll get my degree, see where basketball takes me and then we'll become a family.”
Osby, 21, said those experiences have helped him become a better basketball player.
“In basketball, you have to step away from your own selfish desires and be a leader,” Osby said. “Maybe I'm wide open for a shot, but Fitz (Andrew Fitzgerald) also is wide open and he has 36 points. I need to get it to him because he has the hot hand.
“If you put it in that context, I may have five dollars in my pocket and my daughter may need three of them. It's the same with basketball. Unselfishness can help win games.”
The Sooners return four starters off a 14-18 team. They've have added two junior college transfers. But to make a quantum leap in the Big 12 standings, Osby will have to be as good as advertised.
Former OU coach Jeff Capel last season said Osby was the best player on the roster. He averaged 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds his sophomore year at Mississippi State, but his minutes were limited.
“He has an inside and outside presence,” Fitzgerald said. “He's always crashing the boards. He's very, very determined. He's going to help us a lot.”
Listed at 6-foot-8, 232 pounds, Osby will play on the wing and in the paint. He's being counted on as one of OU's top rebounders on a team that's undersized.
“He's been all about the team during the preseason work, one of the guys that have worked really hard every day,” Kruger said. “He's pretty versatile on the court.”
Osby said it wasn't easy sitting out last season, knowing he could have helped. It will have been more than 18 months since his last game when OU opens the exhibition season Nov. 1.
“I can't wait,” Osby said. “Sometimes last year it was very frustrating. But being able to practice with the team, it actually went by fast. I used that year to get better, so it was beneficial to me.”
It's been difficult being away from his daughter and girlfriend of five years. At Mississippi State, the campus was only 45 minutes away from Shalonda. He saw her frequently.
When he transferred to OU, his daughter was five months olds. He only gets to see her every two or three months.
“It's tough. She's growing up so fast,” Osby said. “There are things I'm missing out on. But I know at the end of the day everything I'm doing, getting my degree, it's all for her.”
A broadcast/communications major, Osby hopes to play professionally either in the NBA or overseas. Insiders have told him he has the potential to play at the next level.
Osby's first priority is earning a degree, insurance if a pro career doesn't pan out. He's on schedule to graduate in December 2012.
“He's really a grown man at a young age,” Fitzgerald said. “All the things he has to do is really amazing, taking care of a daughter, balancing school and basketball. I'm really excited for him. And I'm excited for us because he's going to really help us.”