This past winter, Oto Osenieks made the tough decision to leave behind one major facet of his life and begin the next phase.
Positioned directly at the intersection of the past (Osenieks' playing career at Minnesota) and the future (pursuing his second dream, to coach) is surgery on his left knee.
That knee, which has chronically bothered Osenieks, was the cause of his early retirement from playing. The surgery, which Osenieks told the Star Tribune he will have on Tuesday, will hopefully allow him the stability to continue with what's to come.
"I am relieved," Osenieks told the Star Tribune via text. "I just wish they could fix it so I could play."
Instead, the former Gopher forward plans to stay on with the team as a graduate assistant this fall.
Osenieks, 24, had one year of eligibility remaining due to redshirting his freshman year, but made the decision to forego it after the pain in his knee resurfaced last season. The 6-foot-8 native of Latvia manned the power forward spot in the starting rotation at the beginning of the year last season and started for 23 of his 31 games. After being replaced in the opening lineup by Joey King, Osenieks came off the bench for a handful of games before sitting for the first time, in Minnesota's home game vs. Iowa on Feb. 25. Shortly afterward, the university announced that Osenieks' playing career was done.
He averaged 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds on the year, shooting 29.5 percent from three-point range while achieving new career highs in points (14 -- on Nov. 21) and rebounds (6 -- on Jan. 2).
On senior night, coach Richard Pitino brought in Osenieks -- who was honored that night, along with the rest of the seniors -- as a late substitution off the bench, for a few seconds against Penn State. The forward later played spot minutes against Florida State and SMU in the Gophers' NIT semi-final and championship games, helping to plug holes with Elliott Eliason's ankle injury and King's foul trouble creating depth issues in the frontcourt.
The concern has always been that prolonged time on the court -- with bone grinding against bone -- would prevent Osenieks from having a normal life after his college career.
On Tuesday, Osenieks' knee will be "scoped out," he said, to remove the cartilage that has been building and then smoothen the bones in the joint and the back of his knee cap. He hopes the result will be that he's able to function normally and help coach the team through drills next season.
Osenieks has had two previous surgeries on the knee, in Latvia.