- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

He stands out for his physical attributes, including a chiseled body and a well-coifed ‘fro. He needed only a couple games to become a fan favorite, complete with an extended chant of his nickname. He drives around campus in a rusty-though-roomy 1962 Cadillac DeVille, one of nearly a half-dozen vintage vehicles in his collection.

Make no mistake, Maryland forward Bambale Osby is a bit different. And that’s just the way he likes it.

“Boom, he’s a real cool cat,” said senior forward Ekene Ibekwe, invoking Osby’s apropos nickname. “He’s one of a kind. He’s got the hair, he’s got the old-school car. He’s a person that definitely brings life to the team and to the locker room.”

His rugged play in the Terrapins’ first two games has only amplified his appeal to the crowd at Comcast Center, where Maryland (2-0) will play host to Florida A&M; tonight. A program that faced a dearth of both big men content to work inside and gregarious characters in recent years has found those traits in Osby, a junior averaging 10.0 points and 3.0 rebounds.

“I figure there’s a lot of things in life that people don’t want to do, and I always want to be the guy that does them,” Osby said. “[They say] ‘I don’t want to go to a junkyard or be in a mudyard taking off car parts.’ I’ll do it. When it comes to basketball, people don’t want to rebound and run the floor. I say ‘Why not?’ ”

Osby landed at Maryland after a rather circuitous journey from his high school days in Richmond. He spent a year at New Mexico and averaged 7.4 minutes off the bench before transferring to Paris Junior College in Texas, where he struggled to get along with his coach and was stuck sitting behind younger, smaller players.

Nevertheless, he was a tough inside player who was content playing with his back to the basket, a rare combination. Osby wasn’t quite sure how Maryland discovered him, but the opportunity to return to the East Coast and live less than two hours from his family was appealing.

He enrolled at Maryland in June, taking summer classes while acclimating himself to the program. He immediately set to work on his conditioning, running sprints at Byrd Stadium in the morning to become a better fit in the Terps’ frenetic system.

Osby, whose nickname has been stretched out by fans in much the same way assistant coach Keith Booth’s was a decade ago, quickly injected some personality into a team dragged down the last two years by unmet expectations and consecutive NIT trips.

“I think he’s got a pretty good grasp of the world,” coach Gary Williams said. “It’s not just basketball with him. He seems to enjoy life and he has a good time. He works hard, plus he really has some good inside moves. If we get him the ball at a certain spot on the floor, he can score.”

He also earned a reputation as a trainer’s nightmare with his aggressive play, earning a warning for liberally throwing his elbows around in the post. When freshman guard Greivis Vasquez was asked yesterday if Osby had injured anyone since practice started, he laughed and said “He did — me!” as he gingerly rubbed his cheek.

But as much as Osby’s enthusiasm has aided the Terps, it’s also helped him move past a rough start to his college career.

“You have to find ways to make things interesting,” Osby said. “I’m more effective a player if I’m having fun and enjoying it. Basketball the last couple years, it hasn’t really been something I’ve enjoyed. … I just didn’t see where I belonged to the team. The team could have done the same thing without me there. But here, I feel needed and I feel wanted.”

Not to mention appreciated for his quirkiness. His white DeVille, which sports a Terps decal on the passenger side tailfin, is one of four Cadillacs he owns along with a 1972 Ford pickup truck (“My mom’s killing me,” Osby said. “She’s like ‘Get those cars out of my backyard.’ “)

There aren’t many vehicles rolling around campus that are more than twice as old as most college students, so Osby is rather easy to pick out on the road.

“They say they hear it coming before they see it,” Osby said. “Then when they see it, they say ‘Ah, that’s gotta be Boom.’ There’s nobody else that has that thing. I’ve got some tickets, too. That thing sticks out. If you’re someplace you’re not supposed to be, they’ll notice.”

Osby’s stayed in the right spot on the floor, perching himself around the paint and converting easy baskets early in the season. He knows he’ll stay there, too, both for the thrill of fending off opponents and the joy of a job not many would embrace.

“Well, I’m not a good shooter, so there’s no point in hanging out on the wing,” Osby said. “[My range is] 10 feet and in, eight feet and in really. One thing I did learn in junior college is playing to your strengths. I’m a pretty strong guy, not to be cocky. But if you can shoot layups, why shoot a jump shot? You can settle for a jump shot any day. Shooting a layup on two or three people, that’s working.”

Notes — Williams said freshman forward Landon Milbourne sprained his left ankle at the end of Wednesday’s game and will miss tonight’s game but should return to practice tomorrow. Freshman forward Jerome Burney underwent X-rays on his fractured foot Thursday, and Williams hopes Burney will be cleared to play after the results are examined. …

Guard Adrian Bowie and forward Shane Walker signed letters of intent, officially boosting Maryland’s recruiting class to four players. Braxton Dupree and Dino Gregory signed earlier in the week.

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