The phone rang at 5 a.m., and Emmanuel Omogbo didn't recognize the number. Then it came twice more, this time with his older brother, Samuel, informing him that the two-story family house in Chillum, Md., had burned down.
"My brother never told me," Omogbo said. "They always want to protect me."
But the Colorado State junior forward couldn't be kept in the dark for long, not with the news stations back home in Maryland reporting the news that there were four victims from the fire that took place early Tuesday morning.
Thirty minutes later, a friend from back home called after hearing about his parents, niece and nephew.
"What are you talking about?" Omogbo asked.
"I hate to break it to you, but they didn't make it," he said.
Omogbo's father, 63-year-old Samson Omogbo, in addition to his mother, 55-year-old Caroline Omogbo were gone -- as well as the 2-year-old twins of his older sister, Elizabeth: Anna and Israel Omijie.
U/D Knollbrook - Investigation on-going. Deceased include 2-year old twins,1 male & 1 female, and their grandparents pic.twitter.com/olGTyygtlK
— Mark Brady (@PGFDPIO) January 19, 2016
Omogbo, 20, hang up in disbelief and broke down. Then he went to the gym and sat by one basket, bouncing the ball while a couple football players were on the other side. He says he blanked out, had no idea how long he was in the gym, recalling only that one of the coaches got him before his 9:30 a.m. class.
"I don't remember a thing," he said.
On Thursday afternoon, Omogbo was still in a haze as he boarded a flight from Denver to Washington, D.C. He came off the bench for the first time all season the night before in a win at Air Force, just hours after hearing the devastating news, and logged 10 minutes.
"It's what my dad would have wanted," Omogbo said in a phone interview on Thursday. "I wanted to honor them by stepping on the court."
His father was a huge basketball fan that was obsessed with Emmanuel's college career. After failing to qualify academically out of high school, Emmanuel spent two years at South Plains Junior College in Texas before joining Larry Eustachy's Colorado State program this year. He was averaging 11.4 points and a team-high 7.4 boards this season.
"I had talked to him an hour before the fire," Omogbo said. "Thirty minutes before the fire started, we were texting. He was supposed to come out soon to see me play. They hadn't seen me play since my senior year of high school."
His father was the voice of reason, whether it was when Emmanuel was thriving or struggling on the court.
"He'd pray for me before and after every game," he said. "Same with my mom."
"I'm still in disbelief. I still don't know if it's hit me. I guess I just have to stay strong because I can't do nothing about it now. I can't flip out because that won't bring back my parents and my nephew and niece."
Omogbo was born in Nigeria, but spent nearly his entire life in the Maryland area -- along with his parents, two brothers and four sisters. He couldn't remember the last time he traveled back to Nigeria, but said he will likely make a trip soon to bury his parents back in their homeland.
"My dad and my mom prepared me and my brother," he said. "They always said that if anything happens, we have to be the men of the house."
Omogbo said he will go home and mourn with his siblings this weekend before returning to Fort Collins for practice Monday morning. He is more concerned about the well-being of his older sister, who survived the blaze after jumping out of a two-story window.
"I worry about my sister," he said. "I really worry about her a lot. Those are little kids. My parents lived a life. They're just kids."
A gofundme account has been set up by Colorado State -- which has been approved by the NCAA, and had already raised in excess of $75,000 on Thursday afternoon.
"I don't know what to say," Omogbo said. "People I don't even know, who I've never met, have been helping. I'm so grateful and thankful."
But he's not done honoring his parents, either.
"I'm planning on coming back and playing the rest of the season," he said. "This program teaches mental toughness. Either you have it or you don't. This is what my dad would have wanted."