The Big O

Six-foot-eleven junior center Chris Otule wants to continue to progress on the court.

MILWAUKEE—What a difference a healthy foot or two can make.

After missing 10 games with a fracture in his left foot his freshman season, Otule then broke his right foot three games into the 2009 season and ended up redshirting.

But last year Otule was finally able to stay healthy and the results were promising. After a slow start, Otule finished the season averaging 5.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and a team-high 1.5 blocks per game. The numbers were nice, but Otule said being able to stay on the court was more than enough.

"It was relieving, it felt like a huge weight was taken off me," Otule said. "I just pray I can get another one under my belt, but those first two years were difficult, and I'm just happy I got through a full year."

Otule said he took positives from his redshirt season, being able to view the game from a different perspective, but that there was nothing like actually getting on the court and learning through experience.

"When you watch the game, you grow and see what's going on, but you don't have that physical feel," Otule said. "And last year, I actually had that physical feel. It started off rough in terms of my numbers and productivity, but throughout the year I got better and now I want to be better last year."

He will get the Chance Early to improve even further.

At Marquette's media day, coach Buzz Williams declared Chris Otule one of three starters, citing his defensive prowess and hard work in the offseason.

Otule figures to start at center alongside senior Jae Crowder, but the player he may be paired with more often is sophomore Davante Gardner.

The two are the only real traditional post players on the roster, and Otule and Gardner both said they have been working exclusively in practice against each other.

"In practice, it really helps us a lot because we bump heads," Otule said. "He's known for offense, I'm known for defense, but we try to do the vice versa, where I work on my offensive skills and he works on his defensive skills to better each other."

Otule attended the Pete Newell Big Man camp in Hawaii, where he worked on a plethora of things to improve his game. In particular, Otule has worked hard on incorporating his left hand into his offensive game. Known for creating most of his shots off put-back dunks or easy lay-ins, Otule is looking to diversify his skill set to obtain more looks in the paint.

"Last year, I noticed a lot of guys were playing to my left shoulder, so I had to use my right hand while going up over my right shoulder, and it just didn't look right," Otule said. "Most of the shots weren't going in, and in order for me to be an effective player, I needed a counter move going over my right shoulder with my left hand, and I've been working on that."

For as improved as Otule may be on the offensive end, he admitted he still takes pride in locking down his defender. He has set lofty goals for himself, consisting of four to seven rebounds per game and two or three blocks per game.

"But most important, I want to keep the opposite person I'm guarding with low numbers," he added.

Being a pure paint player in a versatile offense run through guards hasn't deterred Otule, who said he is looking to contribute in any way he can.

"I just try to think about what I could do without the ball. There's a lot of people who have made it that have been successful without having to score the ball. They do other things well like play defense and guard the best player and get rebounds and block shots."

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