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Battling 'Big Lurch': Boone's unfinished business at OSU

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Kalib Boone likes sitting in the spinning office chairs in his dad’s office.

Boone checks in with his father often. Whenever he goes home to Tulsa, he sinks into one of the chairs facing his dad, swivels from side to side and just talks.

One day, shortly after the OSU basketball team finished its trudge through the 2021-22 season, an office conversation pushed Boone and his dad, Michael, nearly to tears.

He discussed transferring.

“Nobody really understands how close (Kalib) was ready to bounce,” Michael said. “After that junior year I really thought, (Kalib) was going to transfer.”

Michael asked one question Kalib couldn’t answer. 

Had he done everything in his power the entire year to be the best version of himself?

Kalib answered what he knew to be the truth. No.

“If I never had that talk with my dad I probably would have just said, ‘Yeah, I’m out,’ and I would have left with Keylan (Boone),” Kalib said. “Talking to my dad helped me lock in on that decision to stay.”

After nearly transferring this summer, Kalib emerged as a driving force behind the Cowboys’ success his senior season. Kalib averaged 17.1 points during a nine-game stretch that ended with OSU receiving votes in the AP Poll. In the last three weeks, Boone’s production slipped to 6.2 points per game and coincided with a five-game losing streak.

Now, with the Cowboys recoiling from a poor finish to the regular season and likely needing multiple wins in the Big 12 Tournament to secure a bid in the NCAA Tournament, OSU needs Boone to return to form in Kansas City, starting Wednesday against Oklahoma.

Kalib is no stranger to difficult conversations. After a promising freshman season where he started five games and scored 16 against Texas Tech, Kalib thought he knew how his career would lay out. His sophomore year he would be the first man off the bench and then his junior and senior years he would take off. But the plan changed. 

Cowboy center Yor Anei hit the transfer portal, turning up the heat on Kalib before he was ready. Kalib said he wasn't the big his team needed.

One day after practice in Gallagher-Iba Arena, Boynton asked Kalib to follow him through Heritage Hall and up the staircase to his office. Boynton called Michael and put him on speaker phone.

“(Boynton) calls my dad and says this ain’t working,” Kalib said. “(Told me) I have two weeks to get (my) stuff together or I’m going to send him home.”

Kalib said he took it as he may not have a place on the team if things didn’t change. 

“That’s exactly how I meant it, in fact, I may have even said that,” Boynton said. “It was never a you need to go because I don’t believe in you, it was you need to go because you don’t want to become what I know you’re capable of.”

What stung Kalib the most was hearing his dad agree. 

Kalib got home that night and called his father, telling him, he, 'Had something for him.' Michael said when he hears that from one of his sons, he knows he will get results.

An angry Kalib developed a tougher mindset in practice and played harder. Results followed. In the month after the intervention, Kalib averaged 13.5 points raising his average by eight.  

“Kalib is literally damn near in tears because he’s thinking, ‘Y’all out here trying to get rid of me, nobody believes I’m really out here trying,’” Michael said. “And I was like, ‘Quit talking about it, do it.’ And that’s when he really did it. That’s when he went on a serious tear.”

Kalib was a central figure in OSU’s 2021 NCAA Tournament appearance. Remember the picture-perfect college career Kalib had mapped out in his head? He began following it again.

Then the path got gnarly.

On the first day of official practices last season in his junior year, Kalib dislocated his shoulder. The injury cost him six weeks of practice and the first two games of the season. 

“That whole year I was playing basically catchup and at one point I just gave up fighting,” Boone said. “I was like, ‘You know what, I just give up.’ That was the one thing that made my dad so mad at me was I just gave up fighting cause he knows when I’m happy and I’m energetic and positive I’m going keep fighting. And that’s why last year was so hard.”

Michael said last season for Kalib was the year of “Big Lurch.” In "The Addams Family," Lurch is a 6-foot-9 butler with a melancholy attitude. Michael said Kalib would probably be mad at him for sharing a childhood nickname, but it summed up the season.

The shoulder injury put him developmentally behind. A postseason ban loomed over the entire team. Kalib felt responsible for taking care of himself and his little brother, Keylan, who grew increasingly unsatisfied with his role on the team and OSU.

Michael said when Kalib, who walks with joy in his stride and a smile on his face, has too much on his plate, he transforms into Big Lurch, an extreme departure from Kalib’s natural personality. Bobby Allison, Kalib’s high school coach, said Boone is naturally happy had never met a stranger.

“I don’t think Kalib Boone’s glass is half full,” Allison said. “I think Kalib Boone’s glass is full.”

When Kalib taped up his shoulder and returned to the lineup, he didn’t play well. Because of the ban and his injury, he was mentally checked out. That’s how Kalib found himself in his dad’s office chair, needing to be talked back into returning to OSU.

When Keylan announced his decision to transfer to Pacific last march, Kalib had already made up his mind to stay. He wanted to ride out his senior year, he felt like he owed a season of 100% dedication to his coaches, team and himself. Kalib needed to go all in on himself.

“Keylan leaving was kind of a good thing because I can finally focus on myself and just grow,” Kailb said. “And that was one of the main keys I needed to do in college and I’m happy in my senior year I figured it out.”

The physical changes came first. Michael said he first noticed Kalib was physically stronger each time he would return home this summer, then Kalib started becoming more consistent in games. Those changes led to Kalib’s self-confidence returning. Michael said he now sees NBA-level confidence.

“I’m my biggest critic,” Kalib said. “I shoot myself in the foot at times and I will make it to the point where I will think less of myself or I just get really tired to the point mentally where I don’t want to do this no more. And that’s the thing that I feel like I’ve grown since last year…there hasn’t been any point this year where I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this no more, I want to get out of college.’”

Big Lurch is gone. Kalib Boone is back.

“Every day I wake up now I’m happy to be here, happy to go kick it with my guys,” Kalib said.