When did you first start playing basketball?
"That was my 7th grade year. The summer between my 6th grade year and my 7th grade year was when I really started getting into basketball. My dad took me out to the courts with the older guys to help get me tougher. I was playing the post then."
Were you taller than the other kids even back then?
"Yes sir, I was 6-2.5 to 6-3 even back then."
Did you notice anything special about your game early on?
"I have always had a natural jumpshot. I had enhanced it by working on it, but it was always natural. I have always had the ability to know where the backboard was. No matter what angle it was, I could hit it."
How have you improved over the past couple of years?
"When I started playing I held my head down when I dribbled and I couldn't see the floor. I also wasn't really aggressive because I was taller than everybody else and it was so easy to shoot over them and dominate them. I now see that I have to work harder the higher the level that I go. When I first started playing AAU ball, it was hard on me because I was used to dominating. Playing against people who were bigger and stronger than me I had to work on my ball handling and my foot quickness, defense, hook shots, post moves and outside shooting."
You've played on two AAU teams the past two summers. How did you do?
"I played with (2003 Alabama State 14@U State AAU Champions) Southeast Pump and Run two summers ago. They are called the Alabama Challenge, now. It was hard for me because I was intimidated because I was only 12 and everybody else was 14 and 15. Toward the end of the summer was when I saw drastic improvement. I started to get used to banging against the older guys. I got stronger and more confidence in my game. That was when my game started elevating. This past year, my AAU coach was more focused on other players, so it was hard for me to shine. The few good games I had you could see my potential, though."
Despite being just an 8th grader, you were brought up to the varsity squad midway through the season last year and started most of the games. You did really well, scoring 13.9 points per game, hauling down 10.5 rebounds per game with 3.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Was it not intimidating for you?
"It was hard at first because I was used to playing with guys smaller than me but the hardnose basketball that I got used to in AAU ball started coming back to me once I started getting in the groove."
While you play small forward, do you have the ability to play inside or are you more of a perimeter type forward?
"I can play inside but I'm more of a perimeter player. I've played with my back to the basket for two years and I still work on my post moves just in case."
You appear to be a pretty good rebounder as well based on your stats. Do you consider yourself a good rebounder or is your rebounding more due to your height?
"At the beginning I would get boxed out because I wasn't strong. As I started getting stronger, toward the end of the season my rebounds started going to 14 15, 16 per game. It wasn't easier, it was just that I learned how to maneuver myself to get to certain places that I couldn't get to before."
What aspects of your game do you feel you still need to work on?
"Everything, every aspect of my game, ball handling, dribbling, post moves, defensive slides, my foot quickness, get faster and stronger, get in better shape, rebounding, grabbing a rebound and pushing it forward, making better passes."
Have you ever had your vertical leap tested?
"Once, it was 34 inches."
Have you attended any college summer basketball camps?
"I went to Mississippi State's individual camp."
What did you learn about your game while at their camp?
"We went through kind of a college practice, so I learned that it is harder on that level. You have to work harder and play better defense."
What are your basketball plans for the upcoming summer?
"This year I may be going back to the (AAU team) Alabama Challenge."
Your dad told me that you have a 3.71 grade point average in the classroom. Obviously, grades are very important to you.
"Yes sir, we have to have the grades. If we don't get the grades, we might as well hang basketball up."
Is that something that your dad and mom instilled in you at an early age?
"Yes sir, they always instilled it in me. My dad is a teacher and my grandmother is a principal in a school. And my aunt is going to Kansas State to get her PhD. It has always been in my family that you get your grades, grades have always been first. Even though I love the game, it is the grades that are going to get me out of high school."
On a more personal level, considering you are still just 14 years old, what kind of curfew do you have?
"I get in bed no later than 11 on the weekends. On regular days, I get in bed by 9:30. Once I get home I knock all my books out and make sure I get all my studying in."
Romero, I'll end it on this, you sound like the kid every dad would love to have as his son.
"(Laugh). Thank you. That's a compliment. I thank you for that."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.