Romero Osby has never been one for the glitz and glamor. The 23-year-old is well-spoken, mature for his age— he is already a husband and father—and excessively modest. Even when he is deserving, the humble forward has done his best to evade praise, instead heaping it on his teammates and coaches. It’s safe to say you won’t find him basking in the limelight. So when he was selected 51st overall by the Orlando Magic, perhaps the most unappealing, extraneous spot in the draft, it seemed fitting.
No one really thought much of the selection. With the 51st pick, there wasn’t much to lose—and there was plenty to gain. But there wasn’t one part of Osby’s game that really stuck out. Incredulous scouts noted this, along with the fact that there is not really much to be found on Osby. He didn’t even crack the top 100 on many draft boards. Due to his unpretentious nature, his hard work has gone widely unnoticed, making it easy for the pundits to label him a question mark and leave it at that. Little did they know, they were only fueling the beast.
“I just use it as a chip,” Osby said in a video on the Magic’s website of his critics. “I don’t put pressure on myself. I go out there and just play hard and hopefully help my team in every way.”
In addition to humble, mature and eloquent, add ambitious to the list of compliments that describe Romero Osby. Those who know Osby will insist nobody works harder than he does and it’s hard to argue with the numbers.
In his two years at Oklahoma, Osby was a muffled model for efficiency. He would routinely put up 20 point games without much fanfare. Often times, one would glance up at the scoreboard and realize, with shock, that he had accumulated 22 points on 9-12 shooting, when it seemed he had half as many. This past season, he shot a 60.3% true shooting percentage, good for sixth best in the Big 12 Conference. His PER of 28.95 was the best in the conference. Better than Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey Pierre Jackson—all of whom were picked ahead of him—and Marcus Smart—who certainly would have gone ahead of him had he not opted to stay another year at Oklahoma State.
The NBA Summer League is a great tool for evaluating young hopefuls. Packed with potential NBA stars, it gives NBA scouts a chance to see how the burgeoning talent stacks up. For a second round pick like Osby, on the cusp of making the league, it is necessary to perform well. Simply being drafted is not enough to secure a spot on the roster. The first game against the Boston Celtics and their newly-acquired young talent would be a good barometer for Osby’s chances.
He couldn’t have asked for a better debut. He showcased his unique versatility, scoring on dunks, drives and jump shots. His ball handling was exceptional for a man of his stature: 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds. But what was most admirable was his effort. Osby played with a warrior’s mentality. He went all out on every play. He dove for loose balls and chased after rebounds. He scrapped his way to 18 points on 7-8 shooting, as well as five rebounds and two steals to show for his incessant battling.
“I just wanted to come in and play hard and help my teammates in any way that I can,” he said. “Just being the energizer bunny and taking charges, rebounding, or whatever the case may be. Just try to help my team in any way possible. I appreciate coach for those kind words,” he added.
Osby’s performance was so impressive, in fact, that it caught the attention of Kevin Durant, who posted on twitter: Ro Osby is a steal for Orlando..plays hard #nbasummerleague. Even with Kevin Durant hurling compliments his way, though, Osby stayed true to his humble roots.
“I appreciate that. He’s a Texas guy and I’m an Oklahoma guy, so I wouldn’t expect that from him,” said Osby in the video, as he laughed. Then he went stone-faced again. “But I appreciate it. It just shows me that my hard work is paying off and I just need to continue to work. I’m not on the level of Kevin Durant or anybody like that in my career yet, but that’s what I want to be one day—a great player. For a great player like that to give me praise I appreciate that, but it is also motivation for me to keep working.”
With that motivation in mind, Osby wouldn’t fare near as well in the second contest, scoring just four points on 1-7 shooting. However, instead of sulk about it, Osby acknowledged that there will be other games. His response was so perfect it almost sounds like it was stolen out of NBA 2k’s My Player mode.
“It was just one of those games where things weren’t going our way or going my way. But you just gotta continue to play hard and bring something different to the table when your shot is not falling. So that’s what I was trying to do,” he said in the video.
In typical Osby fashion, he also lauded his teammates for making him feel welcome in his short time in Orlando.
“Tobias has been great. Moe has been great. K.O. (Kyle O’Quinn) has been great. All of those guys,” he pauses. “I don’t want to leave anyone out, but all of those guys have been great in trying to help me and Vic and everybody else that’s new to the team learn the ropes.”
By his third summer league game, Osby was back to his efficient self. He scored 11 points on 4-9 shooting and also swiped two steals.
It’s difficult to say whether Osby will stick in the league or not from such a small sample size, but he certainly hasn’t hurt his chances with his performance. However, it is hard to bet against someone with such work ethic and quiet confidence. Osby says that if he “Just play(s) hard. The rest of that stuff will come. It’s the NBA. You’ve got the best trainers, the best coaches in the world. You’re gonna continue to get better as a basketball player if you work hard and bring a consistent effort every day. I just want to bring those intangibles all the other skills, all that stuff will come with hard work.”
Romero Osby may not be a star yet, but he is slowly getting closer to realizing his dream. Day by day.