Eight blocks. Fourteen minutes.
That’s all the time it took — 840 seconds — for Garden City Community College’s Jeff Otchere to rack up eight blocks against Butler on Saturday in the Busters’ conference-opening 75-59 win.
That makes it 29 blocks in five games, for an average of 5.8 blocks per game — and that includes just a five-minute outing in the Busters’ win over Cedar Valley on Nov. 3. Still, the 6-foot-11 Otchere with the arms of an oak had five blocks in that game, as well.
His head coach, Brady Trenkle, claimed in the preseason that Otchere could lead the nation in blocks. He would not guarantee it, but Trenkle said he had the ability.
And, it’s looking like it might be a guarantee at this point, with Otchere leading the NJCAA by six blocks. The player with the second-most, Salt Lake’s Kur Kuath, has played six games.
Disregarding any potential for injury, Otchere is on pace for 174 blocks, when the NJCAA leader last season had 106.
With Otchere in the middle of the Busters’ defense — when starter and early conference player of the year candidate Jamir Thomas is getting a rest — opposing offenses are going to have to be aware of his long reach.
When opponents get used to Otchere’s 7-foot-7 arm span, his blocks will go down, but his impact on the game may go up because shooters will have to adjust their shots.
For KU fans, think Jordan Bell’s impact in that Elite Eight game. All of a sudden, layups in the lane turned into lofted floaters to avoid Bell’s reach. That’s the type of rim protector Otchere is, and Thomas is not far behind. He’s got 12 blocks, as well, including four against Butler Saturday.
The Grizzlies were held to just 28.1 percent shooting, after coming into the game hitting 59.1 percent. They were also averaging 123.3 points per game and were held to less than half that.
Otchere and Thomas were pivotal in holding them to that number.
“That really made a difference,” Trenkle said of the blocks. “Jeff came in and made a huge impact right away defensively.”
And that helped the Busters get one of those coveted conference wins on the road.
Hutchinson outperformed expectations last season — they did win an NJCAA championship after all — going 25-1 in the KJCCC, and the Dragons were unbeaten on the road. That’s not happening this season. Getting wins on the road will be of utmost importance for teams with any hopes of a conference title.
The way Trenkle puts it is, be unbeaten at home and win more road games than not, and you’ll be in great shape entering the region tournament. It won’t take much more than that to win the conference, in all likelihood.
Perhaps 21-5? That's 13-0 at home and 8-5 on the road. That's doable.
Hutchinson is still the team to beat, but perhaps Otchere and company will block them from another conference title.
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at firstname.lastname@example.org.