Growing up, Malik Osborne played several sports before settling on basketball as his full-time venture. It eventually became his passion, and the former Florida State forward is now on the verge of seeing that hard work and dedication pay off with the NBA draft rapidly approaching.
Osborne, whose dad played football at Iowa State while his mom ran track at Lewis College, initially received no collegiate scholarships out of high school. But a year at Don Bosco Prep in Crown Point, Indiana, helped change that.
He then garnered interest from several programs, including Oregon State, Rice and Seton Hall. Osborne eventually committed to play at Rice and spent one season there before transferring to Florida State. It was there that Osborne developed into a draft prospect.
Osborne averaged six points and 4.8 rebounds over his first two seasons as the Seminoles advanced to the Sweet 16 each year. He had put forth his best season to date this past year as a junior, but an ankle injury cut it short after 17 games. He averaged 10 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Now, Osborne is healthy once again and preparing for his next step.
The 6-foot-9 standout has worked out with several teams during the pre-draft process, including the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic among others. He is looking to become the next Seminole to enter the NBA after a strong run in Tallahassee.
Rookie Wire caught up with Osborne to discuss his basketball journey, his collegiate career, the pre-draft process, what he is looking to showcase to teams and much more.
Please note: This interview was minorly edited in its transcript for clarity
Where are you training and what does a typical day look like for you?
MO: I have been training at the Sports Academy in Frisco, Texas, with Tandem Sports & Entertainment. We have a lot of guys from all over the place from Australia, Russia and Spain, and they all came here to train. We do a lot of stuff. We have a weight room where we start off pretty much at 9 a.m. We have a little stretch of conditioning and then after that, we get on the court for skill work. Sometimes it can be individual workouts or sometimes it could just be a full squad workout where everybody’s working together.
We work on certain things that teams are looking for and then just sharpen our skill work as far as ball handling and shooting just to make sure that we do the drills at these workouts that we’re at our best and our peak when it comes to that skill set. After that, you have a recovery room that’s top-notch with ice tubs, hot tubs, saunas and a hyperbaric chamber so pretty much everything you would possibly need. The best part about it is we also have a hospital inside the facility so just in case guys get nicked up or whatever, they have professionals on-site so they can be treated right away.
How much do you feel like your game has improved since school ended?
MO: It has improved tremendously. The trainer that we’re with at the agency has coached overseas for a while. He has been around the game and a lot of great players for years training overseas professionals. He knows how to make certain skills in players better to let that shine and make them more valuable and more marketable for teams, as well. He has improved my ball-handling, shooting touch and he keeps the environment very competitive, as well. He has helped improve my competitive edge by making these workouts high intensity and making every drill competitive.
How much does it help that you are going up against these other guys you're training with?
MO: It’s been really well. We have overseas guys who play with grown men. We have players who are in the league and, on top of that, we have Jeremy Sochan, who is a lottery pick. We have a lot of good talent and then G League professionals, as well. The guys here are the closest things to being the real thing so day in and day out, I feel like I’m getting better at different aspects.
When did you start playing basketball and were you involved in any other sports?
MO: I was involved in quite a few sports before I started playing basketball for real. I started really playing basketball in sixth grade but I started taking it really seriously in eighth grade. Before that, I played baseball for like nine years. I played flag football for about five and I played actual football for about five years. I played soccer for a couple of years but I played quite a few sports before I started really getting into basketball.
By the time I took it seriously in eighth grade, I knew it was going to be a sport I stuck with. Once I got to my junior high school, that became the sport that I wanted to put all my energy and effort into because it was a sport that I had the most fun with. It was the sport I had the most passion toward and the sport that I worked at the most so after my junior year I realized that I wanted to be a professional basketball player and have been pursuing that ever since.
You just mentioned it a little bit but why did you choose basketball?
MO: I really wanted to stick with football just because I grew up around a lot of football players. My grandpa played for the Chicago Bears. My dad played for Iowa State. My uncle played for Miami of Ohio and my other uncle played high-level football in college, as well. I was really kind of leaning toward carrying on that football tradition but I had a growth spurt going from 6-foot to 6-foot-6 my junior year and I realized that maybe basketball was more up my alley. After I had some success in it, and saw how much I was improving, I realized that was the sport for me and the one I wanted to stick with.
After high school you didn't have any college offers and then you go to Don Bosco Prep. What did that do for you in terms of getting on the college radar?
MO: I didn’t end up making the team my junior year at the school I was at so I only got to play really one year of varsity my senior year. I did really well my senior year. I made all-conference and all-area and took my team to the conference championship. We were one game away from going down to state but I helped them go as far as they have been in a long time. That year I got interest but going with Don Bosco that second year allowed me to get offers.
Having that extra year to strengthen my body, take college courses, being able to work on my game night in and night out and be kinda in a similar environment that I’m in right now was able to take me from a guy who had zero Division I offers to have like 12 Division I scholarship offers from all over the country. I felt like that year was very pivotal to go against top talent. My team was composed of a lot of guys from all different types of high schools and we played other prep schools and even junior college teams. That kind of got us in that mindset for college.
You didn't make the varsity team as a junior. How difficult was that for you?
MO: I felt like that was also a pivotal part in making me who I am today because I felt like that was that was a point of my life that really tested my character and how committed I was to the sport. I found out that sport was the one for me because not only was I committed, but I was excited to make that commitment to be undeniably good by improving the areas that were said to be my weaknesses.
After that year of working on my body, my IQ for the game and learning more about the game, I feel like it turned me into an incredible basketball player and it kind of showed me what it takes to be where I want to be, you know? That year taught me the one thing I can really do is control myself and how I react to things. Being cut was not what I wanted to do but at the same time, I felt like being cut was the best thing for me because I was able to find myself and find what my passion was.
You played one year at Rice and then transferred to FSU. They have sent a lot of players to the NBA recently. Did that play a factor in your decision?
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
MO: I knew before I had committed to FSU, I knew they produced players like Dwayne Bacon, Malik Beasley and Jonathan Isaac. I understood that those players were there but, for me, it was about the right fit. It wasn’t necessarily about how many pros the program produced. I felt like if I did what I was supposed to I would ultimately become a pro regardless of what school I went to. There were a lot of things with Florida State.
I had an auntie that teaches there. I have family that lives very close to campus. My dad is from Florida. (Then assistant) Coach (Dennis) Gates was the coach that recruited me from Rice. He is from Chicago. I knew Mfiondu Kabengele. He was actually at Don Bosco the year before I was there so he was somebody I could relate to when I joined the team. On top of that, Coach Leonard Hamilton is a Hall of Fame coach. The coaching staff does a really good job with development and then I just saw the culture there. It was a brotherhood instead of a team.
Your senior season got cut short because of an ankle injury. How disappointing was it to have that happen?
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MO: Frustrated was definitely an understatement. It was my best year. I was finally ‘the guy’ knowing how Florida State operates and how Coach Hamilton operates. He respects hierarchy so we knew the hierarchy is you come in and work as a freshman and graduate up and you earn your spot as an upperclassman. I finally waited four years and was able to be that guy and was actually able to see myself as a leader. It was fun to be looked up to.
It was really frustrating but at the same time, I felt like it was just another way for me to look at basketball and figure out how to be impactful without being on the court, you know? That’s when I decided to use my voice a lot and see how I can impact winning without having to score a basket. I was able to turn that negative into a positive and still be able to talk to my guys and put them in a position to win. It was frustrating but the best thing for me to do at that time was to turn it into a learning experience on how I can become a better person without touching the basketball.
How would you describe your game to someone that hasn't watched you play?
MO: I will always describe my game as versatile. I feel like there is no limit to what I can do. I just call myself a ‘whatever’ man. I do whatever it takes to win especially losing on the college scale when, at Rice, we won like seven games total. Being able to flip that around and play my first year at FSU and become the No. 4 team in the country while being the starting center. I love winning a lot more than I love losing so I understood what it took to win and that was sacrifice. Everybody is sacrificing for a greater cause.
I was out there able to sacrifice my natural position of being the four and three and just playing the five and doing what the team needed, whether that was rebounding, scoring, defensive stops, energy or using my voice on the court. That’s kind of what I always prided myself on being. I know I have greater aspects to my game than others. I think my rebounding is elite. I think defense is elite. I also know that I have enough tools and have been in enough situations to know that I can do whatever is needed to win in any given moment.
What are you trying to show teams in your workouts?
MO: The thing I try to show the most is my value. Obviously, I was having a really great year before I got hurt. I want to show them that I’m still that same player but also just showing them that even though I was in a certain role at Florida State, I’m capable of doing whatever it takes to win. I just try to show as many facets of my game as possible. I try to show my ballhandling, shooting, competitive spirit, defense and grit.
I want to also show that no matter if I’m able to be on an active NBA roster right now, I have skills that can be utilized on the court. If I’m not able to and I’m looked at as a two-way guy or a G League guy, I can still impact the team as well by just keeping good morale and bringing high-intensity energy in practices and in the locker room. Just keeping the energy very positive when it comes to the locker room.
Have you been able to get any advice during the pre-draft process from any of the former FSU players?
MO: The only person I really have talked to has been Jonathan Isaac and that is because I ended up seeing him for my Orlando workout. He was just telling me to stay positive throughout the process. Whether you don’t have a good workout or a bad workout just keep your head up and look for the next opportunity.
Given your journey, what would you have said in high school, after not making the team as a junior, that you would one day be on the doorstep of the NBA?
MO: If you have told me at prep school, I probably would have called you crazy. In prep school, obviously, I had an emphasis on making it to the NBA but at the same time, I knew everything has to be worked for and a lot of things would have to go right. If you would have told me at Rice, I probably would have slightly believed knowing that there were a couple of good teams in my conference with Marshall, Middle Tennessee and a couple of guys went to the league from there. If you were to have told me at FSU, I would have taken on the challenge. I would have known that I went through a lot.
I’m just blessed to be able to continue my story. I just can’t be any happier being where I’m at being in the footsteps of the NBA. It’s almost emotional thinking about it because I’ve been through so many trials and tribulations. I’m just enjoying the ride and everything that’s coming to me because I wasn’t supposed to be here, according to some people. I wasn’t good enough, according to some people and then now those same people are congratulating me on my accomplishments. It’s all about betting on yourself and that’s something I’ll probably do until the end because nobody knows what you’re capable of besides yourself.