Oto Osenieks has played his last game for the Gophers men’s basketball team.
In an unexpected twist on what seemed like a manageable injury, the Gophers sent out a news release on Wednesday announcing that the 6-8 junior forward from Latvia wouldn’t be back on the court — either this year or next.
Osenieks, who last played at Ohio State on Feb. 22, has had cartilage issues in his left knee, spawning from old surgeries. The Gophers had downplayed the injury, not ruling Osenieks out of playing at Michigan last Saturday until the day of the game.
“Unfortunately, this injury will limit his ability to continue playing beyond this season,” coach Richard Pitino said in a release.
Osenieks, in his fourth year at the university, is on track to receive his bachelor’s degree in May, but he had one year of basketball eligibility left after redshirting his freshman year.
Pitino said Osenieks, who is interested in pursuing a career in coaching, will remain with the team next season “assisting and supporting our team in day-to-day operations.”
Osenieks will be honored at Senior Day on Sunday, when the Gophers play Penn State at Williams Arena.
Osenieks started 23 of the 28 games he played in this season, averaging 5.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 19 minutes. Joey King is expected to continue starting at power forward, and Charles Buggs to see more playing time. Buggs had played in two minutes all Big Ten season before scoring 13 points in 19 minutes when Osenieks sat out against Iowa on Feb. 25.
His departure gives the Gophers another scholarship for 2014. The Gophers had one left over from a three-recruit fall signing class. Then Wally Ellenson made the decision earlier this month to focus on track and field. Now, with Osenieks off the roster, Minnesota has three more spots to potentially fill for next season.