GOLDEN EAGLE: Otule finally back at full strength

Marquette men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams has been tested as a coach many times. Whether it was finding life after Lazar Hayward or Jimmy Butler, he has found an answer. For most of last season, the question was finding a replacement for Chris Otule’s presence in the frontcourt. He formulated an equation and found his solution.

Otule is back on the court for the Golden Eagles after being sidelined last season with a torn ACL. He played six minutes at Marquette Madness on Oct. 12, just nine months after undergoing knee surgery.

Williams limited Otule’s action with the team during its off-season workouts and bootcamp. From what he observed, Otule could have been more active, but Williams took an over-protective approach.

“He’s just a really big guy,” Williams said. “All the things he’s overcome just to be able to be a part of the team picture, I think that’s really cool.”

The goal for Williams is to have Otule and Davante Gardner back to being in top shape for the season opener. The two complement each other well with Otule as the defensive stopper and Gardner as quick offense.

The fifth-year senior was granted a sixth year by the NCAA for his injury-stricken season in 2011-12, but he has not come to a decision as to whether he will choose to use it next year.

His focus right now is fighting his way back into the starting lineup and picking up where he left off before he hit the ground at Madison Square Garden against Washington.

“There’s competition in practice every day,” Otule said. “If you ask anybody on the team what me and Davante do every day, they’ll tell you we just bang each other. We just compete hard every day.”

In the public scrimmage, Otule scored four points down low and rebounded four times with no signs of pain. He is still not getting the minutes that some of his teammates are, but he is managing to stay behind his teammates and catch up soon.

“All these guys are getting work and I couldn’t work out with them,” Otule said. “I had to stick to my rehab, and structural things.”

Otule turns 23 in January. During his time at Marquette, he has been able to work with now-NBA talent, as Wesley Matthews, Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom have all been his teammates. Five years in the classroom and countless practices with those types of players have done a lot for Otule’s development as a leader.

He may not ever be the go-to option for points, and he knows that. Otule does his job well, and Williams sees positive results in the players around him.

“Offensively, he is our worst guy (on paper),” Williams said. “But the numbers don’t tell the story because he really helps us offensively because he creates driving lanes and opportunities for guys to score.”

His teammates were all smiles seeing their big man back on the court with them before a crowd of thousands of Marquette fans. Otule took the microphone and showed off his vocal skills by attempting to sing FUN’s “Some Nights.”

His roommate and fellow vocalist Junior Cadougan is thrilled to see Otule with the team again.

“It’s lovely to see Chris back,” Cadougan said. “I know how it feels to be injured, and he’s worked hard and now he’s back.”