Daniel Oturu, as he has done all season, showed in his final three high school games why Gophers fans are so excited to have the big man on campus next season.
The 6-10 Cretin-Derham Hall senior center averaged 21.7 points, nine rebounds and 6.3 blocks in three Class 4A boys' basketball state tournament games — with the last two of those points coming on a dunk with a half-second left to give the Raiders a 79-78 win in a thrilling championship game Saturday over Apple Valley.
There were plenty of standout players and performances in the tournament, but Oturu was at or near the top. But when the 10-member Class 4A all-tournament team was named and released shortly after the championship game, Oturu was not on it — though three of his teammates were. So what gives? Several readers wanted to know.
The Minnesota State High School League news release says the team was selected by "media attending the tournament," but it's hard to fathom many — if any — media folks leaving Oturu off the list. It's rather informal, but KDHL radio in Faribault conducted a quick survey of area media members after Oturu was left off the team and concluded that everyone queried had voted for Oturu.
As it turns out, Oturu was left off the team because of what was deemed a sportsmanship issue. Oturu received a technical foul in the first half of the title game for shoving Apple Valley star Tre Jones.
The two players are standouts and were AAU teammates. The exchange came at the end of a possession in which Oturu appeared to draw a lot of contact. His shove of Jones was a no-doubter, and he lingered over him for an extra moment before things calmed down.
Tim Leighton from the MSHSL didn't cite that specific play in response to a Star Tribune question about Oturu, but he did write this in an e-mail Monday:
"Part of the criteria to be selected to the All-Tournament Team is sportsmanship. It is one of the items shared by the public address announcer prior to the award ceremony. It was a committee decision not to include Daniel on the All-Tournament Team because of that criteria."
That clarified what had been speculation until Monday, as several folks on Twitter had guessed the technical foul was the reason Oturu was left off the team. Oturu retweeted some of that speculation and other tweets after the game. He also had a few words of his own to add, tweeting, "No matter what you say about me and my team, you can never take away the fact that we are champions."
In the big picture, it's not a huge deal. Oturu figures to rack up bigger honors once he starts his career with the Gophers. Still: If this was punishment over one technical foul, it seems overly punitive.