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BOWLING GREEN - Ask Otis Polk how much he likes being a shot-blocker and he swats the question into the third row.
"[Blocking shots] is just something that comes along with my game," Bowling Green State University's junior center said. "It's something I do well, but I don't pride myself on it because often times I get myself in foul trouble going for blocks."
At 6-foot-9 and 285 pounds, Polk generally causes more trouble for opponents trying to enter the lane than anything else. Earlier this season he blocked his 100th career shot - the fifth Falcon in program history to block that many shots - and is just 17 blocks from tying BGSU's school record of 117 set by Tom Hall in 1992.
Polk was second in the Mid-American Conference last year with 1.7 blocks per game and his 19 blocks this season lead the league. The Falcons' opponent in tomorrow's conference opener - Buffalo - is certainly aware of Polk and his presence in the paint.
"He does pose some problems," said Bulls coach Reggie Witherspoon, whose team will visit Anderson Arena at 2 p.m. "There aren't many guys around the country who bring his size, his girth and his ability to the table. There's just a shortage of guys like him."
Any conversation about Polk's basketball skills starts with his ability to block shots. But Witherspoon also talks about Polk's foot speed and ball skills, which the coach said make him a factor on the offensive end.
Polk is averaging 5.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game, and his 38
offensive rebounds rank second in the MAC. This is his first season as a starter, but he saw action as a reserve in each of BGSU's 30 contests last year and averaged 5.6 points and 4.4 boards.
Falcons coach Louis Orr recognizes the improvements Polk has made in his overall game.
"The more he gets the ball in the paint, around the basket, the more dangerous he is," Orr said. "He's become a much better offensive rebounder, he's a much better passer, and his free throw shooting has improved. Has he arrived yet? No. But we know that if we can get him the ball in certain areas on the court he can be effective.
"Even if he doesn't get the ball he can occupy his man because he's so big. And you've got to respect that. Occupying the defender is almost as important as getting the bucket."
Polk, who had a season-high 10 points New Year's Eve at Duquesne, said he sees his offensive game as "still growing a lot" and notices the ball has been in his hands more. He also said he knows his first priority is on defense, where he can not only alter shots by pinning them against the backboard but also by causing opponents to shoot from further away.
Polk tied a career high with four blocks against Illinois State on Dec. 6 and recorded his 100th career block against Duquesne. While he says he doesn't pride himself on blocking shots, he knows Hall's record is within reach.
"It's a good record to have," Polk said.
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