Romeo exploring options

At the Reebok Breakout Challenge back in July, a high-flying, shot-blocking center caught the attention of many of the coaches and scouts in attendance. Scanning through their rosters, the 6'9 player in question was Greenbrier East (WV) center Obi Romeo. On Sunday evening, Hawk Hill Hardwood spoke with his father, Rick Romeo.

In order to understand Obi Romeo the basketball player, there is a lot that you have to understand about Obi Romeo the person first. "Obi came over to this country a little over two years ago," Rick began. "He came from Nigeria to a school in the DC area that ended up not existing, or never got off the ground. There were two other boys too and they went to North Carolina. We offered to help one of the boys out, and that boy ended up being Obi. "

Rick Romeo went on. "We brought him to West Virginia and began the adoption process. His dad in Nigeria agreed to allow him to be adopted here."

This past April was really Obi's first action on the AAU circuit, due to a "bad shoulder" that he had the prior summer, after arriving from Nigeria. "When Obi arrived in the United States, he was probably only 180 pounds, but he's up to 227 now," Romeo explained. "Due to the bad shoulder, he didn't play AAU last year. If you think about it, he's really only been effectively playing basketball for a year."

What does Rick credit Obi's growth, both physically and as a player to? "His body was thin and pretty frail when he first got here, but he can eat whatever he wants with us. He's also on this crazy CrossFit routine. He does CrossFit an hour or an hour-and-a-half every day as part of his work out," Rick elaborated. "He also just trains and plays incredibly hard, and he's quick at picking up new things. Like a sponge."

The first event that Obi played on the AAU circuit was the Pitt Jam Fest back in April. One school took early notice and was the first to reach out. "Coach (Dave) Duda from St. Joe's was the first coach to call us, after Pittsburgh," Rick stated.

As a 6'9 227-pound athletic big man with a 7'7 wingspan, it's hard to stay under the radar too long. While St. Joe's was the first to call, they certainly were not the last. "College of Charleston was one of the schools that got on him after July. Cincinnati called. Minnesota called and was interested. It was crazy in July," said Rick.

Three of the schools in the mix at the moment, according to Rick, are St. Joe's, La Salle, and Seton Hall. "Obi took his official visit to St. Joe's last month, and I know that Coach Duda, and maybe Coach Martelli, are coming down on Wednesday," explained his father. "La Salle is very interested in Obi if he will redshirt. Seton Hall has also called recently and shown interest."

Other schools in the mix include Longwood, where former East Coast Fusion coach Cade Lemcke now coaches, and Florida Gulf Coast. The Romeos took an unofficial visit to FGCU over the summer.

When looking at schools, the Romeos do have an idea what they are looking for. "I want a school that will develop Obi as a basketball player," Rick began. "I think that he has great upside, so I want a school that can coach him up. Then I also want a school where he'll be surrounded by good people, where he'll be safe. As a parent, that's something that means a lot. Obi is a good kid, he's a real religious kid, and he's a sensible kid, so we want the best fit for him."

While the early signing period begins in just a little over a month, Rick Romeo said that they were in no rush to sign. "We really don't need to be making a decision until the spring," he said. "Everyone out there is rushing around and committing, but we're not in a rush."

St. Joe's hosted Obi Romeo for an official visit back in September. At least one member of the coaching staff is heading down to West Virginia on Wednesday to check in on him. The Hawks certainly are still in the market for a big man, especially one with high-level athleticism that will be able to run the floor with the influx of talented athletes in their 2014 class. Obi Romeo's name is one that Hawk fans should remember over the coming weeks.

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