Colorado State University forward Emmanuel Omogbo is playing the best basketball of his career despite — or maybe because of — a tremendous loss he suffered.
In January 2016, his parents, niece and nephew died in a house fire in Omogbo's home state of Maryland. The small forward seemed to recover quickly: He's averaging a double-double this season, and has helped lead the CSU Rams to the second seed in the Mountain West tournament, with hopes of qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
"I felt like I played a lot better after the tragedy, because I feel like I'm playing for a lot more now," Omogbo tells Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.
"I feel like I have a lot more to lose. So I don't want to let my parents down. I don't want to let my nieces and nephews down, because those are the promises I made to them."
Omogbo is also motivated by the community that supported him after the fire. A GoFundMe campaign set up by CSU raised more than $100,000 to help his family pay for funerals and temporary housing. So he decided to call 2016-2017 his "Thank You season."
Omogbo spoke with Colorado Matters from Denver International Airport as he made his way to Las Vegas for the Mountain West tournament, where the Rams will face off against the Air Force Falcons Thursday night.
Conversation Highlights With Emmanuel Omogbo
On why he went to the gym the morning he found out about his parents' death:
"It's kind of like a sanctuary where I always go when things are not going my way... I was crying... I think one of my coaches came to get me from the basketball court."
On how he stays composed:
"My parents always told me to wear this necklace they gave me, that if I have the necklace on, they are always with me, and nothing will ever go against me. And that's what I just believed in. My mom and my dad were very spiritual, my family is, so I just kind of believe in everything they tell me."
On why, after hitting a game-winning shot recently, he said, "That was probably my parents that forced that ball to go in, and my niece and nephew":
"I knew that because I was 0-3 prior to the three-pointer I took. The ball is not even supposed to be in my hands late clock if we need a three. It was just a coincidence that the ball was in my hand at that time, so I was forced to force up a shot that went in. It was great to see [fans] run around the arena. It was great to actually see CSU fans actually happy again."