By Ben Coldagelli
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Patience and progress.
These are the qualities that have defined junior forward Romero Osby's past two seasons on the University of Oklahoma basketball team, qualities that have become more than necessary for his role on the OU hoops squad.
A transfer from Mississippi State, Osby's need for patience was tested when the junior sat out the required one season after switching schools.
"It was tough," said Osby. "It was tough sitting out and feeling that you could help the team and have a significant role but you can't do anything about it. You practice with the guys every day and go through the struggles with them but you can't be out there fighting in the game. It's hard watching basketball when you've been playing it all of your life and for the first time in your life you have to sit out. It was tough."
Stripped of the privilege to competitively play the game he loves, Osby took advantage of his inactive year to improve in the practice gym and weight room, patiently waiting for his opportunity to reach the floor of the Lloyd Noble Center.
After a season on the bench and an offseason of coaching changes, Osby's Oklahoma debut had arrived with the start of the Sooners' 2011-12 campaign.
"I came into this season just looking forward to competing and finally getting a chance to play for a big-time program," said Osby. "I've watched the Big 12 my whole life growing up. Being from Mississippi, I knew of OU, I knew of Kansas. I had always wanted to play in the Big 12, but originally chose the SEC out of high school. I was looking forward to the season and wanted to come out and play as well as I possibly could, get my feet wet and get back to playing a lot; being able to have a significant role on the team."
It wasn't the easiest transition, but after waiting more than 20 months since his last collegiate game, Osby's patience paid off. He was the starting forward for the Oklahoma Sooners.
"It took a little bit to adjust, offensively," said Osby. "There's nothing like game shape. I've been doing conditioning with the team and practiced with the team all of last year and this year, but there's a big difference when you're playing a game. There's a different type of intensity in practice, but the game is a completely other level."
Then came the progress.
Since the start of Big 12 play, Osby has averaged 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. The junior has scored at least 15 points in seven of the Sooners' 13 conference games.
Osby credits his success to re-adjusting to the game with the help of the Sooners' new coaching staff, headed by Lon Kruger.
"We have a great coach and a great coaching staff," said Osby. "They've really pushed us to get better every day. The transition has been really good because they're players' coaches. They're coaches that really want to see their players succeed. These great coaches adjust to our games instead of trying to force us to adjust to their system. They find ways to incorporate our game into their system and it's been really good for us."
Kruger has been incredibly receptive of the hard work and progress that Osby has shown throughout the season. More importantly, Kruger is proud of the impact Osby has had on his teammates.
"Romero is doing great," said the first-year Sooners coach. "He has a great attitude about doing whatever it takes to help the team. He works hard and is very genuine in his leadership, which is expanding every day. The other players respect his approach and because of that, Roe is a good leader. There's a lot to like about his game."
Fellow transfer student and junior guard Sam Grooms says he looks to Osby for one attribute that stands out above the rest.
"His hunger," said Grooms. "That's big for me. He plays so hard every day and you can just tell in his eyes that he wants to win. He wants his team to be successful -- whether that's getting the rebound or a steal or even taking a charge. That's what stands out the most for me, his passion for what he wants to do.
"In between the lines, he's an animal. He wants to go hard in every drill, he wants to win every drill. He pushes you every day. He's one of those guys that you need on your team in order for your team to be good because he challenges everybody every single day."
Winning hasn't come easy for the Sooners, especially in a conference as stacked as the Big 12. Oklahoma has shown significant progress throughout its first season under Kruger. Despite the strides that have been made, Osby and the Sooners are still working towards meeting the potential they see in themselves.
That's where the patience comes back in.
"Coach always says that as the year goes on, our roles expand," said Osby. "I'm trying to make my role expand and get better and better."
In order for Oklahoma to once again reach the pinnacle of the college game it will be critical that Osby continues to progress in both his play and his leadership, something that Kruger hopes will become contagious in the locker room.
"Romero is the best kind of teammate," said Kruger. "He has an attitude where he does whatever he can to help the team. He's always thinking about his teammates, always doing things to help others, always positive and picking them up. The guys are very receptive because they know how hard he works and they listen to him when he speaks. That carries a lot of credibility. He leads by example but he's also very vocal, too. Good leaders do both."