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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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With listening, she's found peace
After a dismissal from Florida, Brooksville's Bernice Mosby has blossomed at Baylor.
By KELLIE DIXON
Published March 13, 2007
There was a time when Bernice Mosby would have tuned out Kim Mulkey.
The immensely talented but equally stubborn forward never liked being told what to do. So it wouldn't have been a surprise for her to ignore the Baylor coach when Mulkey told Mosby she would not walk in and be a superstar.
Mosby would earn her playing time like anybody else. After all, the then-defending national champion Bears really didn't need a player with one year left of eligibility and a dismissal from Florida.
But Mosby didn't bristle at Mulkey's no-nonsense message.
And despite the promise of a difficult path, Mosby decided Waco was the place for her.
That was 2005.
Since then, Mosby has blossomed - athletically and personally. The 6-foot-1 senior is a finalist for the Wooden Award and the Kodak/WBCA All-America Team.
A two-time Times All-Suncoast player of the year, Mosby averages 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds for Baylor, which lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 semifinals. She takes the floor at 2 p.m. Sunday when No. 5 seed Baylor faces No. 12 seed Chattanooga in the Fresno Region in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"I've got a lot of peace down here," Mosby said. "That's one of the main things I think I really needed. I'm just having a good time."
She's no longer the quiet, wide-eyed girl with the nickname "Birdy." The one who studied Larry Bird on television spent most days playing pickup on the Brooksville courts with the boys and traveled many weekends to Clearwater for AAU hoops.
The youngest of seven, Mosby sought to please her rather large, Brooksville family. Taking advice from several relatives, she verbally committed to Florida, LSU and Connecticut before finally signing with the Gators.
Mosby, a power forward who can handle the ball and score from anywhere, was a star at Florida. She led the Gators with 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds as a junior.
But she got into trouble. She was suspended from the team for four games then dismissed altogether in 2005. The Gainesville Sun reported two separate incidents - that Mosby fought a teammate and then walked out on the team.
Mosby and then-coach Carolyn Peck refuse to talk about what happened, but both have moved on. Peck is glad Mosby found her niche at Baylor.
"She could have done a lot of different things," Peck said. "Bernice made good decisions. I'm proud to say Bernice is where Bernice is because of Bernice."
The two parted on good terms. Mosby refused to let this dramatic event define her or her relationship with Peck. Mosby sent Peck an encouraging text message when Peck was fired from Florida recently.
"I needed something new, something fresh," Mosby said. "I was just at a point where I wasn't happy, and I think everything happens for a reason."
Mosby's mom, Gloria Brown, was probably the most delighted with the decision. Sure, Waco is a 17-hour drive from Brooksville, but Mom wanted her youngest child to go.
"Gainesville was close enough," Brown said. "Her sisters were following her where she was going, and she doesn't need those distractions.
"But thank God for where she's at now."
It hasn't been easy for Mosby.
After transferring, she had to sit out a season. For practically the first time, Mosby was watching games rather than competing.
But Mosby didn't focus on the agony of going from starter to spectator. She spent the time losing weight, rebuilding muscle and readjusting her attitude.
When Mulkey barked at Mosby in practice, Mosby listened to the message and not the delivery. Mulkey wanted her to get better, to improve her pro stock. Slacking off wasn't an option, and sometimes Mulkey yanked Mosby off the court if she didn't like what she saw.
"Bernice knows who runs this show," Mulkey said. "Bernice was told that before she got here. I've thrown Bernice off the floor before, and she's been the biggest cheerleader we've had."
Compare that to the younger Mosby - the unhappy player slumped on the bench during the first quarter of Hernando's region quarterfinal against Alachua Santa Fe. She had missed practice by accident. She was walking in as the team was walking out. But rules were rules, and then-coach Walt Cermak kept his star on the bench for the first eight minutes.
Her team lost by two points.
Years later, Mosby can't recall the game, but she does remember going back and forth with Cermak. "I remember him yelling a lot," Mosby said. "You know me, young-minded. I'd be like, 'I don't have to do it,' stuff like that. But I just grew out of it."
It was just a matter of growing up. Mosby is more mature and thankful for her second chance at Baylor. She adheres to her mom's guidance to keep God first and keep up her grades. Mosby likely will be the first in her family to graduate from college. And she works with the homeless in Waco.
On the court, Mosby maintains her intensity.
Gone are the days when she would play hard for five minutes and then disappear. Now she can turn in a full 40. She has the size, skill and desire to play professionally. The projected first-round WNBA draft pick plans to get an agent.
No matter what, Mosby is at peace with her future.
"I'll go wherever God leads me," Mosby said. "That's how I look at it."