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Injured Otule has always exemplified hard work, determination

Not again. It can’t be.

Just over a minute into Marquette’s thrilling 79-77 win over Washington at Madison Square Garden, Marquette center Chris Otule was hustling for a loose ball (that he came up with) when he planted his left foot into the floor, saw his left knee buckle and fell to the ground.

It was a sight that Marquette fans are far too familiar with, and it couldn’t have happened to a more unfortunate person. Again.

A pair of broken feet (his left in 2008; his right in 2009) suffered in practices limited Otule to just 12 games his first two seasons at Marquette.

No one would have blamed Otule had he faded into the midst of the Marquette bench and rode out his final two seasons cheering from the sidelines.

After all, Otule had little experience under his belt to prove to head coach Buzz Williams he could contribute, and was the only true big man playing in a system dedicated to running the break and finding guards early and often.

But instead of sulking or making excuses, Otule hit the ground running when the 2010-2011 season began. He slimmed down, worked on his interior game and dominated the weight room over the summer.

No one has committed themselves to hard work more than Chris Otule. (Marquette Tribune file photo)

By the time the season began, he looked like a new player. And played like one, too.

Otule finished his first full season averaging 5.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and a team-high 1.5 blocks. He became a force defensively and, paired with freshman Davante Gardner, formed the first formidable post game at Marquette since the days of Robert Jackson.

Midway through that season, it was learned that Otule had been dealing with a different “injury” that made a couple of broken feet look easy.

When Otule was born, one of his eyes had not fully developed and he was given an artificial eye. He replaces the eye every time he grows out of it, which he says last occurred two years ago.

Despite his claims that his condition only affects him on close passes, it’s still an extraordinary feat that he is playing high-major Division I basketball with half of his vision gone. It’s tough to play in the Big East with two eyes.

So when Otule went crumbling to the Madison Square Garden floor holding his knee, and replays showed his knee buckle in a way that sports fans have seen all too many times result in season-ending injuries, my heart buckled the same.

I feel confident in saying there hasn’t been a harder working player on the roster since Otule arrived on campus. Darius Johnson-Odom could probably bench press a book case at Raynor library with ease, and I wouldn’t bet against Vander Blue in a foot race, but Otule has been as committed to the program and getting better every day as anyone I’ve ever seen.

Coaches from Buzz Williams to strength and conditioning coach Todd Smith seem to bring up Otule’s name whenever speaking about determination, progression or hard work. And for good reason.

At this year’s media day, Williams told media members that, in high school, Otule was the worst player in Texas high school basketball over 6-foot-2. Williams has admitted that he is ruthless to Otule, sending out tough love because he knows his center can handle it and thrive from it.

Take Williams’ quote about Otule, for instance, after Marquette’s home opener this year.

“Chris Otule would be the guy that I’ve applied the most stress to during his time,” Williams said. “And I’ve told him several times over the last six weeks, ‘You’ve learned the hardest lesson that there is to learn in life. You’ve learned the value of working, and that there is no substitute for that.’ My respect barometer is always driven on people that work, and I have the utmost respect for him because he’s learned how to work.”

Otule has had every reason in the world to frown when it comes to his health at Marquette, yet every day he can be seen walking around campus or on the basketball court with a smile wider than his wingspan. That positive energy will surely aid him recover from whatever injury he sustained Tuesday night.

This could be all for naught, as Marquette could announce as early as tomorrow that Otule will be back sooner than most expect. Anything else would be unfair for a player who has worked so hard the last three years.

According to a statement from Williams today, the placement of Otule’s injury is known, but the severity is not. What I already know, and what the rest of the Marquette community already knows, is that whatever injury Otule suffered, he will come back stronger than ever and make a positive contribution to the Marquette basketball program as soon as he can.

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6 Comments on “Injured Otule has always exemplified hard work, determination”

  1. Bill Derleth
    December 9, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    What a great heartfelt article…..I’m pulling for Chris more than ever now

  2. Alexa Porter
    December 9, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    This is incredible…Chris has always been an inspiration to me, and I am praying hard for his return soon. I suffered a torn ACL earlier this year, and I hope and pray that this is NOT what happened to him. However, if it is…Chris will come back stronger than ever. I know that much.

  3. Rob
    December 9, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Great article… Question for you the writers at PT… Is this a school/MT sponsored site? Will you (the writers) be taking it with you when you graduate or will it be handed down to up and coming writers? Keep up the good work, the alumni appreciate the well done articles.

  4. Michael Grimaldi, J '71
    December 9, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Great article about a player who lives the Marquette spirit. Thanks!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Daybreak Doppler: Sit’em While You Got’em | PocketDoppler.com - December 9, 2011

    […] Paint Touched with comments on injured Marquette center Chris Otule. […]

  2. A healthy Otule ready to compete | Paint Touches - October 13, 2012

    […] 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. […]

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