The University of Minnesota announced today that Oto Osenieks will be honored as part of senior day festivities on Sunday afternoon, and that his playing career with the Golden Gophers is over. The red-shirt junior forward hasn’t played in the last two games due to a knee injury that sounds degenerative in nature. There is a silver lining though. According to the announcement from the University, Osenieks will remain on scholarship next season, and will be something of a coaching intern.
Somewhat sudden departures like this are always met with some speculation about what is really going on, and often with good reason. This time, the speculation doesn’t seem warranted. Osenieks has apparently injured his knee multiple times, and has had multiple surgeries dating back to high school. While he is old by college basketball standards, having played a year at a prep school after high-school, and then sitting out his first year with the Gophers, he is still very young by real world standards. He has a whole life ahead of him, and knee injury or not, very little of it would have been spent playing basketball. He’ll be getting married, might have kids someday, and it would be an absolute shame if he wasn’t able to enjoy his post-basketball life because his knee was permanently damaged during his college days. Degenerative knee injuries don’t really get better and it was probably time to stop making his knee worse.
Osenieks had an up and down career with the Gophers, but his effort was never up and down. He always tried his hardest, sometimes maybe a little too hard. This season he finally moved into the starting line-up and played the best basketball of his career. His best game was probably in 2012 when the reeling Gophers, a few weeks removed from Trevor Mbakwe’s own season ending knee injury, beat #8 Indiana for their first top ten road win in 30 years. Osenieks scored six points in that game, all of them timely. Without Oto playing well that night, we would all still be wondering what it is like to beat a top 10 team on the road. Fittingly, fellow seniors Maverick Ahanmisi and Austin Hollins also played the best games of their careers, up to that point, in the Indiana win.
Every player who devotes four years of their life to the basketball program deserves recognition, and credit is due to Richard Pitino and the coaching staff for making sure Osenieks gets that recognition on senior day. Luckily, we won’t have to say good bye until next year.