OGDEN — Frank Otis was beaten. Tired. Defeated.
An injury-plagued junior season at Weber State made him wonder if the game he’d played since childhood was worth pursuing any more.
“When you continue to lose something, it’s hard to even keep wanting it back,” he said. “I kind of got to a point last year where I was like, man, I don’t want to be around basketball. I don’t want to be in a gym. I know that was kind of wrong to my teammates, but that was the mindset where I was at. I was tired. I was defeated.”
The year had begun well when he scored 13 points and had 17 rebounds against Northern New Mexico in the season opener, but in all, Otis played in just 12 games his junior year.
He got a lift from his basketball family as he worked to recover, first from a knee injury in December 2011, then another injury that sidelined him just two games after his return a month later.
“My coaches, they stayed on me. My teammates, they helped me to want to get back,” Otis said. “They lit a fire under me, made me start loving basketball again.”
As his college career winds down alongside fellow senior Scott Bamforth, Otis will be in the starting lineup for Weber State’s 7 p.m. game against Portland State at the Dee Events Center.
While the Wildcats continue to chase Montana for the top spot in the Big Sky Conference with two games left in the regular season, under different circumstances, Otis might have ended up playing for the Grizzlies alongside his high school teammate Will Cherry.
Otis — “Mook” to everyone who knows him — is grateful for where he ended up after transferring from Southern Methodist.
“I wish I could have had my whole career here (at Weber State),” Otis said, “but they say everything happens for a reason.”
Despite the setbacks and injuries along the way, Otis can come up with several reasons now.
“To be able to enjoy basketball again; I wasn’t able to enjoy basketball like I wanted to at SMU. It’s just funner here. I’m closer to home, I get to be with people I grew up with like (current teammate) Davion (Berry) and Dame (former Weber State star Damian Lillard),” he said. “Everything happens for a reason. I also met a wonderful girl out here, Karessa.”
Montana considered Otis but offered a scholarship to another player, while Lillard, an Oakland, Calif., native like Berry and Otis, vouched for Otis’ character with the Weber State coaches when he learned that Otis was looking to transfer from SMU, telling them that Otis was their kind of player.
After two seasons with limited success at Southern Methodist, sitting out a season at Weber State because of transfer rules and being injured for much of his junior year, Otis is finally enjoying a season like he envisioned.
The 6-foot-6 forward is averaging 9.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and is leading the Big Sky Conference in field goal percentage (.634) while helping Weber State to reach No. 2 nationally in the same category (.510).
Otis has also taken a leadership role while working to get back from his injuries, Weber State coach Randy Rahe says.
“To see it all pay off for him is really rewarding,” Rahe said. “He’s really put his heart and soul into the team.”
The younger players look up to the fifth-year senior, Rahe said.
“He’s kind of like a big brother to a lot of these kids. He’s really embraced that aspect and I think that’s why he’s had a good season for us, because he’s given himself up. He’s a team-first guy and he’d do anything to help the team win.”
Weber State (22-5, 16-2 Big Sky) puts its nine-game winning streak on the line tonight against Portland State (8-18, 5-13), which took the Wildcats to overtime in their first meeting of the year on Dec. 22. WSU has won five straight against the Vikings, who have been eliminated from a chance to compete in the Big Sky Tournament.
Otis is thankful for every chance to still be playing college basketball.
“I felt like if I would have never got hurt, things would probably be a lot different for me right now, but you know everything is going to work out. God puts you through everything for a reason. It’s made me a tougher person, because I’ve always had to come back from things like this and stay mentally strong,” he said.
“Everything is going good this year. I have no complaints. I just thank God I’m able to enjoy this season, my final college season with my teammates and my coaches. It’s going well. I don’t care about the past any more. God’s presented me with an opportunity now and I’m taking full advantage of it.”