It would be easy for Chris Otule to ask, “Why me?”
After all, the redshirt junior center has missed 55 games in three-plus seasons at Marquette. He missed the start of his freshman season with a broken left foot. A surgically repaired right foot ended his sophomore season just three games in. And this past December, season-ending knee surgery cut his junior year short just as he was playing the best basketball of his career.
But instead of asking questions, Otule is making his own answers.
“I didn’t even know what to think,” Otule said after sustaining the injury. “I was just spaced for a couple days, just thinking. But I talked to family and friends, loved ones, and just looked for the optimistic side of all of it.”
And that is exactly what he has done. A positive attitude and strenuous daily rehabilitation has given the 6-foot-11 center a positive outlook on his future at Marquette.
The knee injury he suffered on Dec. 6 in the opening minutes of Marquette’s win against Washington did not automatically end his season. Surgery would be required at some point, but both athletic trainer Ernest Eugene and Otule decided to take a non-operative approach to his rehabilitation, making it plausible that he could return sometime during the season. Surgery would then take place after the season.
He would not have been at 100 percent had he returned, but his past injuries keeping him off the court combined with the team’s current success made him want to attempt a comeback.
However, during his rehabilitation he suffered a setback in an individual workout that led to his decision to move up the surgery date to Jan. 10, thus ending his season.
Now three weeks out of surgery, Eugene said Otule’s rehabilitation will consist of three factors: controlling swelling, gaining strength and working his range of motion. The process can take anywhere from six to 12 months and all three areas of his daily regimen will continue to increase as he works toward a full recovery.
“He’s exactly where he should be,” Eugene said. “And if it wasn’t for his mindset and how he works every day, he wouldn’t be where he is today.”
Eugene said Otule’s rehabilitation will continue into the 2012-’13 season as he continues to gain strength in all areas of his leg. A crucial part of his rehabilitation will be gaining mental confidence to play without worrying about the knee.
Along with his own positive attitude, Otule said his teammates have provided the same support they always show him.
“A lot of times people might feel left out when they’re hurt,” Otule said. “But I don’t feel like that at all. These guys make sure that I’m still a part of everything they do, and they show me love, and I appreciate that.”
Sophomore forward Jamil Wilson, who has seen an increased role in the past month, said Otule has helped forwards by offering advice and analysis in practices and during games. Wilson attributed his increased blocked shots to conversations with Otule and realizing the center’s importance in the post.
More importantly, Wilson said Otule’s attitude during such a difficult process has been inspiring.
“He’s still the same guy and wants to help everybody. His heart is unbelievable,” Wilson said. “He’s such an unbelievable example of what you should be, how positive you should be toward yourself and everybody else, and what he’s facing is tremendous. It’s unbelievable.”