Nine months removed from ACL surgery on his injured left knee, redshirt senior Chris Otule is back.
The 6-foot-10 center, who suffered the injury in a Dec. 6 game against Washington in Madison Square Garden, announced himself completely healthy at Marquette’s media day on Friday.
It was a difficult offseason for Otule, who will turn 23 in January, and while he admitted he’s behind his teammates after missing individual summer workouts, he has completed his rehabilitation and strength conditioning and is a full participant in team workouts.
“I’m right on track. I feel like I can do anything,” Otule said. “I practice without any limitations, all of that.”
That’s great news, considering Otule initially suffered a setbackduring his rehabilitation that resulted in a torn ACL. That meant surgery, and his 8-to-10 month recovery timetable meant that, any more setbacks, his status for the start of the season would be in doubt.
But it’s been smooth sailing for Marquette’s big man. Working with head trainer Ernest Eugene and strength and conditioning coach Todd Smith, Otule completed what he needed to and has put the injury behind him. He still comes in an hour early before practice to do extra stretching and ices his knee after every workout, but he said his leg strength is coming back little-by-little.
Buzz Williams admitted he has held back Otule in some drills as a precaution, but as a whole is happy where his fifth-year senior is right now.
“He’s becoming one of my favorite human beings of all-time,” Williams said. “His story is what college athletics, it’s what life is supposed to be about. I have been over-protective of him, relative to our work. But all the things that he’s overcome, just to be part of the team picture in 15 minutes, I think that’s really, really cool.”
But just because his head coach happens to be at the front of the pack of people in his corner, Otule knows he still needs to show he’s ready to compete at the level he did pre-injury.
“I have to be able to show that I can be useful, to the coaches, to the players, everyone. And it will all play out by itself,” Otule said. “If I’m doing badly, I won’t see the court.”
He showed fans some of that Friday night in the team’s scrimmage. He was not expected to take part in the 24-minute game, but ended up playing six minutes while scoring four points and four rebounds.
Expected to start at center this season, Otule is still playing catch-up to his teammates, who had all summer to improve. But if the past is any indication, he’ll have no issue getting back to full-speed by the season opener on Nov. 9.
“I didn’t do the type of individual workouts they were doing, so it would mean that I’m behind,” Otule said. “But when we start practice I’ll be on the same page. I’ll be doing extra stuff, and I’ll keep up with the team.”