BOWLING GREEN - His teammates call Otis Polk the Elevator. But the thing about elevators is that they go up and down.
Yesterday, with the outcome of Bowling Green's game against Toledo still in doubt, Otis The Elevator punched the top floor and delivered. His thunderous dunk off a feed from freshman point guard Joe Jakubowski pretty much put the Rockets away with under five minutes to play and when Polk followed that with four more points it guaranteed a win by the Falcons. The final score at Anderson Arena was 69-58.
Polk came off the bench to score 12 points, grab five rebounds and block four shots. At 6-foot-9, 280 pounds, Polk is one big man. When the sophomore plays like one, when he takes that elevator well off the ground floor, the Falcons can do some serious damage.
"Otis got up pretty good on that one," said a smiling teammate Nate Miller, 240 pounds himself but more vertically challenged. "He's definitely getting better and better. When he goes strong to the hole, attacks the rim, and finishes, man "
The long arm of Bowling Green's Otis Polk makes it difficult for Toledo's Jonathan Amos to get off a shot. Polk, a 6-9 sophomore, had 12 points, 5 rebounds and four blocked shots.
But as the old saying goes, Polk is still growing into that body. Still trying to figure out how much talent he has and how good he can be. Still learning how to create space and move opponents around. Or push 'em around.
Ask anybody about Otis Polk and you'll hear what a nice kid he is. The problem for Toledo yesterday was that nice young Otis turned nasty.
BG led by just 50-48 when
Jakubowski, a St. John's Jesuit product, drove into a ton of traffic and put up a shot that had no chance. But Polk established position under the basket and tipped in the rebound. Jakubowski made another low-percentage drive seconds later, but was fouled and made two free throws.
Then came the play of the day. Miller had the ball and the shot clock was winding inside 10 seconds. He couldn't free himself, so he dished to Jakubowski, who hurriedly drove the lane one more time and had three much taller UT defenders collapse on him. In the corner of his eye he saw Polk coming down the baseline and, somehow, slipped the ball past, through, or under all the Rockets.
"I saw Otis cock [the ball] back really far and I knew he was going to dunk," Jakubowski said. "That was very, very impressive. It got me pumped."
Dunks count two points. Same as a couple free throws, same as a 10-foot jump shot. Emotionally, though, dunks count for far more. This one, in fact, all but ended the game as UT's shoulders slumped for a 14th straight time on the road this season.
"I know I can dunk," said Polk, who nonetheless doesn't do it very often. "It's sort of a confidence issue. Last year, I missed a dunk here against Eastern Michigan and that can stay with you. But my confidence is up now. I feel like I can attack the basket. I've worked hard on losing some weight and getting stronger. It's a big adjustment. Yeah, I guess I'm growing into my body."
BG coach Louis Orr chuckles and suggests that would be easier for Polk to do if there wasn't so much body to grow into. He'd like to see a little leaner, meaner scoring and rebounding machine out on the floor.
"Otis is a great young man," Orr said. "He's not just growing into his body; he's maturing into a man and a basketball player. That comes with experience and confidence. He has to understand how good he can be and the commitment it takes to get there. I think he's starting to understand. His presence today was awesome."
Polk's dunk was the start of a six-point spurt for the big guy. He added a couple free throws and then went unguarded to the hoop for a layup off a nifty feed from Darryl Clements on the next possession to give BG a 60-48 lead.
His five boards supported Miller - who had a tremendous game with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists - and Chris Knight (10 rebounds), who led the Falcons to a 39-24 advantage on the glass.
BG is 11-11 now and 6-4 in Mid-American Conference play, far better than anyone predicted or expected at the start of Orr's first season at the helm. But after a game at Eastern Michigan on Wednesday, the stretch schedule presents a serious challenge. The Falcons will have to play big to survive. They'll hope to keep riding Otis The Elevator in order to reach the higher elevations of the league standings.