Tragic pickup hoops injury could cost recruit his Big East future

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

A Notre Dame basketball recruit is finding his future in jeopardy because he did exactly what he was supposed to over the summer: He stayed out of trouble and kept playing basketball.

Notre Dame recruit Eric Katenda
Notre Dame recruit Eric Katenda

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Sporting News and a handful of other sources, recent high school graduate Eric Katenda, who was expected to play for Notre Dame in the 2011-12 season, may not be able to play on the Notre Dame basketball team because he has gone blind in one of his eyes. Katenda's blindness was caused by an injury sustained in a pickup basketball game in Washington, D.C., where an opponent accidentally hit Katenda's left eye, creating a massive build-up of blood behind his eyeball which eventually severed his optic nerve.

There is no prospect of recovering sight in the eye, which leaves the 6-foot-8 power forward with a long recovery process in which he'll have to learn how to adjust his depth perception and motor skills for a life with only one lens of sight. Whether or not he will ever be able to compete in basketball at a high Division I level with only one eye is a genuine doubt.

In the meantime, Notre Dame is adamant that it will honor his scholarship, provided Katenda completes the coursework he was scheduled to finish before enrolling at the school in September. Fighting Irish basketball coach Mike Brey is now encouraging the Wichita, Kan., native to take the fall off and enroll in the spring.

While such a dramatic turn of events could quite understandably alter a young basketball prospect's world view, Brey insisted that Katenda remained genuinely positive, both about his life and future at Notre Dame.

"[Katenda is] great," Brey told the Tribune. "He understands the reality that playing basketball at the Big East level may never be part of the equation again. He's very understanding of that. In the last two weeks, I think he's really come to grips with understanding that getting an education is now very, very important. He's very realistic about it.

"I don't know if I've been more depressed, handling Eric and talking to him through this. He's been unbelievable. His frame of mind has picked me up a couple times on the phone."

Katenda will need that spirit to push forward at Notre Dame, whether he does so with the basketball program or simply as a member of the general student body.

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