By JOHN SHINN
Je’lon Hornbeak and Buddy Hield felt guilty as they walked into a Norman Braum’s not too long ago. Just a little southwest of there, they spotted forward Romero Osby running the hills at nearby Brandt Park (the OU Duck Pond).
“It was an off day he was over there running the hills and we’re about to eat at Braum’s,” Hornbeak said. “You see that, and you’re like, ‘man, that’s what we need to be doing.’”
It wouldn’t be a bad idea for anyone to mimic Osby’s work ethic.
In every sense the senior forward has been the Sooners’ pace setter. He leads them in scoring (13.2 points per game), shooting percentage (48.7 percent), rebounding (6.9 per game) and blocked shots (9).
Osby has been the backbone of OU’s early success. Saturday’s victory over Texas A&M was the third straight game he’s led in scoring. It was also another game where the performances around him fluctuated. It was Cameron Clark, who came off the bench to score 17 points against the Aggies, last time. Amath M’Baye, Steven Pledger and Hield have all had their hot games.
Osby, however has been the lone Sooner who’s level of play has been reliable in nearly every game.
“He’s been our most consistent performer by quite a bit,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “He’s giving us the same thing every time: rebound the ball well, score, talk, his enthusiasm has been good.”
They are all things Kruger hoped he would get from Osby this season. The Sooners (7-2) are still trying to figure out where all the pieces fit with this team. They’re expected to have the same starting lineup when they face Stephen F. Austin (7-1) at 7 tonight at Lloyd Noble Center. But Kruger has continued to play a 10-man rotation.
Osby is the only one guaranteed to be on the floor at crunch time, because he’s earned it.
“I try to be consistent; that’s always been my thing. I just want to maintain my level of play,” Osby said. “I try to do stuff that doesn’t require a lot of extra work. Coach doesn’t have to call plays for me because I can get to the offensive glass and try to get stuff off of defense and running the floor and stuff like that.”
In other words, dirty work.
Osby, a senior who graduated with a degree in communications last week, has always prided himself on doing those things. He likes it even more when it rubs off on the guys around him.
Hornbeak noticed it when he was still in high school and made an official visit to OU. Hield noticed it before he ever arrived on campus.
“He’s always talking to us. He’s trying to teach us the game or anything and show us how to learn from things better,” Hield said. “He’s been around it so long. He’s been a great leader, and a great example to us.”
The Sooners wouldn’t be where they are without the stability Osby has given them. They’ve been able to win while experiencing growing pains.
“We need four of five doing that. Right now having one do it is a start,” Kruger said. “We have four guys closer to the point where they’re going to be consistent with production. We need to speed that process up a little bit with Big 12 play right around the corner.”
Tonight’s game is one of three non-conference games before OU has Big 12 play starting Jan. 5 at West Virginia. There’s still some time for players to settle into roles.
The Sooners are able to do it without a sense of panic because of Osby.