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February 22, 2013
He can only remember practicing with the ball in his hands and shooting shot after shot with his dream in mind. Today, his dream seems a little closer, a little more tangible.
Oklahoma is playing the best basketball it has ever played in Pledger's tenure. The Sooners have already won two more games this season than they have in any of his years in Norman.
"That's what I want to do," Pledger said. "That's been a dream, and that's what I'm going to try to pursue."
SCOOPHD: OU GETS SET TO TAKE ON BAYLOR IN NORMAN
That knowledge isn't lost on Pledger, who is looking to play in the first postseason tournament of his career as a senior, and, hopefully, show NBA personnel he belongs in the league.
"I know postseason play is another opportunity to showcase what you need to do," he said.
He's cognizant of OU's want to finish the season strong and has set himself to task, but he admitted he'd spoken to his parents about what could be next for him after his time as a Sooner men's basketball player is over.
Romero Osby shares those dreams as well. He shares the same focus.
Focus on his game. Focus on his family.
He, like Pledger, wants to return Oklahoma to the NCAA tournament, and, in doing so, hoping to show at least one NBA team he's worthy of a roster spot come October.
Osby averages 14.2 points per game this season after averaging 12.9 last season. His 7.0 rebounds per game this season is nearly on pace with his 7.3 rebounds per game last season.
After shooting 69.1 percent from the free throw line in two years at Mississippi State and one at OU, he's shooting a career-best 79.6 percent from the charity stripe this season.
"I work my tail off to try to be able to do that and try to show it out here in the Big 12," Osby said. "But it's a tossup sometimes. You never know. You never know where you might fall."
He understands, at his height and weight, playing the power forward position in the NBA would be an uphill battle. In college, he's considered big, strong, athletic.
That's just not the case in the NBA.
"At the next level, you're talking about the intangibles, skill development, and the skill is crazy," Osby said. "You got Kobe Bryant, LeBron James my height, my size. Ball handling is crazy. The shooting is crazy, but I'm confident in myself. I know that I can play at that level."
Osby will have to rely on his confidence in his ability and willingness to hustle if he's going to play in NBA. According to pro basketball scouting organization DraftExpress, Osby is just the 55th-best senior in the 2013 class, and Pledger is ranked as the 81st-best senior in the class.
DraftExpress founder Jonathan Givony thinks highly of Osby and believes he could surprise some if he's given the opportunity.
"He's really gotten better offensively, I think, this year," Givony told SoonerScoop.com. "I think this year he's kind of made himself a more versatile player, and he does a little bit of everything out there. I think he's a good player.
"I think Osby, being undersized, I think you'd want to see him be a better rebounder than he is right now on both ends of the court because he's not going to be a focal point offensively in a professional setting, so he's going to have to show he can do other things."
So might Pledger.
This season Pledger averages just 11.3 points per game and is shooting just 35.4 percent from 3-point range. Last season he averaged16.2 points per game and hit 41.6 percent of his 3-point attempts during the 2011-12 season.
Through his first three seasons, Pledger converted 84.2 percent of his free throw attempts. That number has dropped to 75.0 percent this season.
DraftExpress analysts thought highly of him heading into the 2012-13 season. In an Oct. 2, 2012 piece, they called him "one of the most pleasant surprises in the Big XII [sic] as a junior."
His slow start to this season and lack of attacking and defensive prowess has soured Givony on the prospect of Pledger joining the NBA ranks.
"Pledger was a guy that we wanted to watch going into the season," Givony said. "You know we wrote about him in the fall, and he's kind of a guy we marked down to see if he was going to take that jump that a lot of guys take from their junior to senior year.
"But it kind seems like he went in the opposite direction. He's become a lot more one dimensional, and he's not very effective at that one dimension."
Osby and Pledger acknowledge they each have much left to prove to perspective NBA suitors, but it's going to be hard for them to earn their way into the league. Still, they want the challenge.
They want the dream.
"You know if I get an opportunity to show people what I can do in front of a scout or workout or whatever I'll be able to show them what I can do," Osby said.