We all have something that is our “thing.” Some of us play an instrument, some of us make art and some of us write stories. For third-year student Michael Otoo, that thing has always been basketball.
Otoo’s love for basketball started at a young age when a group of friends introduced him to the game. “They told me I wasn’t good enough to play … which was true. So, I watched them play, and I knew immediately that I loved the game,” he said.
After watching his friends, Otoo had his father enter him into a youth league. He never looked back, honing his skills over the years to become a high-level player. After an impressive basketball career throughout high school, Otoo was given the opportunity to continue playing the game he loves here at Mount Allison, where he enjoyed a successful first two seasons as a Mountie.
Basketball has given Otoo lifelong friendships and a childhood full of happiness and fond memories. It also helped provide him with a higher education. As he summed up, “the game means the world to me.”
But then, in an instant, it was taken away from him.
On July 1, 2016, Otoo was involved in a motor-vehicle pedestrian accident. He was in a coma for five days and suffered a severe, traumatic brain injury. The doctors told him he would be unable to return to school, or to the basketball court, for the upcoming year.
“[It] was shocking….I live through basketball. Knowing that the ACAA playoffs would be held at Mt. A and I couldn’t be a part of it was extremely tough,” he said.
Faced with a challenging recovery, Otoo quickly began rehab with a team consisting of an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist and a speech therapist from the TRAC Inc. group in Ottawa.
“I have good days, but I also have very bad days,” he said, though he was quick to give praise to the rehab team he has been working with.
Although there were clearly more immediate concerns to Otoo’s well-being and recovery, basketball was never far from his mind.
“Not playing has been extremely heartbreaking. At the beginning, I couldn’t watch any basketball game without feeling extreme sadness knowing I couldn’t be out there,” he said.
It was an extremely tough pill to swallow for Otoo, but anyone lucky enough to know him knows he is someone who exudes positivity and can put a smile on your face during your worst day.
While it would have been easy for Otoo to feel sorry for himself and be bitter about what was taken from him, this was simply not his approach to the situation.
Along with rehab, Otoo started working with a personal trainer and reached out to lifelong coach (and Mt. A alum) John Johnson. He is determined to return to his pre-accident level.
“First, my academic goal is to be ready for school … but deep down, my goal is to try out for the Mounties and make the team,” Otoo said. Even he will admit that this goal is a bit ambitious, but the thought of rejoining his teammates and getting to play the game he loves is what drives him every day. “It would mean the world to me to put on the jersey again,” he said.
When it comes to athletics at Mt. A, we are constantly hearing the term “Mountie Pride.” Perhaps no one has come to represent this phrase more than Mike over the past nine months. He has shown the determination, positivity and hard work we should all strive for in the face of adversity.
While Otoo’s future as a basketball player for Mt. A remains unclear, his efforts to return to the court have been nothing short of inspirational.
Keep fighting, Mike. We’re all rooting for you.