Chris Otule: The reluctant yet effective leader

Photo by Ryan Messier

Photo by Ryan Messier

Take a look at Marquette’s roster through the eyes of Buzz Williams.

According to the Texas native, his 2013 Golden Eagles consist of four “new players” and “eight guys over here, and of the eight only two of them have ever proven they’re any good.”

Tough love has been part of Williams’ coaching mantra since he arrived in Milwaukee six years ago.

And in order to dole out that tough love, Williams needs help from his upperclassmen and returning players.

“Your team is only as good as your returning players,” Williams said on Oct. 11, Marquette media day.

With 47 percent of his Big-East minutes from last season lost, Williams’ roster enters this campaign with many contributors back and one particularly large hole.

“September was a bad month because we had no leadership,” Williams said. “And everybody was trying to figure out, ‘If I talk, is somebody gonna listen? And when I talk, are they going to actually execute what it is I’m saying?’”

One player in particular has started to speak up, but not by choice.

“Chris Otule answers the bell every single day,” Williams said, “(and) is now beginning to learn how to talk, but he’s been forced into that – even though it’s not in his nature.

“He talks a lot more than I’ve ever seen him talk in the past couple years,” Derrick Wilson said of Otule. “He’s one of those guys that you don’t have to worry about. He’s going to show up every day and he’s going to work. That’s the type of guys you need to win games and in order to have a program like this.”

While he’s putting on a good show, Otule said this new role is taking some time to get used to.

“It’s definitely a new thing because I’ve never been in this type of position to be the one that everyone looks up to,” Otule said. “I usually lead by example and just do what I’m told and do the minimum.

“Now I have to lead by example and be vocal because you got guys that are 17, 18 years old and I’m 23. So I have to lead vocally as well as leading by example.”

Marquette boasts four seniors on its roster, but Otule is the most experienced. As a sixth-year player, Otule has been a Golden Eagle as long as Williams has been head coach.

“He’s been here for six years, so I think he has a lot more experience than a lot of us,” Wilson said of Otule. “I think he shows that through his work. Everybody just falls in line behind him. I think that’s how he is.”

Otule’s been with Williams every step of the way, through all the ups and downs, which means he knows better than most how to thrive in Williams’ system.

“I would probably say the thing about Buzz is the main thing he tries to stress is that you have to utilize your off days,” Otule said. “That’s probably the one thing I want to teach them because as a freshman, on the off days I would just chill, watch TV and not do anything.

“But really, you have to get a sweat in because if you don’t, by the time you start practicing again, you’re exhausted. You’re tired with the way Buzz runs practices.”

Chris Otule has done things the hard way in his four-plus seasons. (Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

Chris Otule has done things the hard way in his five-plus seasons. (Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

And one set of practice sessions, in particular, always serve as a wakeup call to new players: Boot camp. And that’s where Otule’s newfound leadership began to blossom.

When a particular freshman didn’t make a sprint — Otule wouldn’t disclose his name — the Texas native made sure to let him know it was unacceptable.

“I had to go over to them and say, ‘Look, you have to make the sprint. If you don’t make the sprint, then we’re going to do it again and again and again,’” Otule said.

Don’t worry. He said it in his nice voice.

“I’m not much of a yeller. Sometimes I can (be),” Otule said laughing. “But it’s just one of those things where you’re just talking to them and need to let them know if you don’t make this sprint we’re going to be here all day long. And no one wants to be here all day long.”

To accompany his new position on the team, Otule has worked to improve his offense.

“I’ve never been the type to think of myself as person who can catch it on the block and make a move,” Otule said. “You know, working with coach (Jerry) Wainwright and stuff over the offseason, it’s allowed me to catch it on the block and make a great move to finish it.”

If his improved dribble into a right hook shot on the post isn’t as effective as Otule anticipates, he can still impact the team with his defense and tremendous work ethic.

“A lot of people they work one day, and don’t work hard the next day,” Wilson said. “He works as hard as he can every day.”

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