UK Basketball: Mom appreciates Harrellson's concern for her daughter
Josh Harrellson, right, surprised Alex Otte, who was injured in a Herrington Lake boating accident last summer, when he visited her at school in Lexington recently and even autographed her prosthetic leg. (Laura Otte)
“Now she’s not only watching UK, but she’s really interested in what is happening with the draft. She knows the day of the draft and everything, something she never really would have worried that much about before,” said Laura Otte, Alex’s mother.
That’s because former UK center Josh Harrellson did something for Alex that she’ll never forget — and neither will her family. In fact, Laura Otte considers Harrellson “not only a great athlete, but a champion in every sense of the word” because of what he did for her daughter and continues to do for her.
Alex, then 13, was severely injured in an accident on Herrington Lake last summer when a boater hit her.
“Alex played and loved basketball. Unfortunately, in the accident she sustained multiple injuries including the loss of her lower right leg,” Laura Otte said.
A family friend asked UK¿basketball player Jon Hood to see if he could visit her in the pediatrics intensive care unit at UK Children’s Hospital. Not only did Hood come, but he brought along his teammate, Harrellson.
“Head trauma and pain killers prevented Alex from remembering anything about that visit except for seeing two ‘very tall’ guys by her bed,” Laura Otte said. “However, in the spirit of true blue fans, the family had pictures made. It was unbelievable to them that these busy athletes would take the time to come to the hospital to brighten the day of this young girl and her exhausted family.”
Laura Otte was grateful for what Hood and Harrellson did and life went on. Alex was back at Trinity Christian Academy in a c-collar (for her neck) and wheelchair. She also reconnected with Harrellson over the Internet to thank him for his visit to the hospital even though she was not happy her family did not remove the c-collar or tubes from her nose for the pictures with Harrellson and Hood.
Harrellson surprised Alex Otte again in late May by showing up at her school and spending over two hours signing autographs, interacting with the faculty and playing basketball with Alex and her seventh- and eighth-grade classmates.
“When my daughter was discharged from the hospital, she referred to herself as a “freak” because of the loss of her lower leg,” Otte’s mother said. “That day when Josh showed up at the school, she asked if it would be OK for him to sign her prosthetic leg.
“She took off the leg and handed it to him in front of the whole school,” Laura Otte said. “He just smiled and I told him that I had to be a first. She is walking around — in shorts — with Josh Harrellson No. 55 on her prosthetic foot.
“Our family has always known that both current and former UK athletes take time to participate in charity events and fundraisers which help communities across the commonwealth. But these acts were not about raising money, doing community service, receiving publicity or notoriety — they were simply about putting a smile on the face of one teenage girl. We had witnessed Josh’s work ethic and talents as an athlete during his final year at UK, but we had no idea to the depth of his character.”
The story could have ended her and been remarkable — and life-changing for Alex Otte. But that’s not the way Harrellson operates. He cares and doesn’t forget.
“As a mom, I¿have never met someone who is so genuine. That’s why there is so much more to this story,” Laura Otte said.
When Harrellson came to Mercer County in late May for a charity fundraising game, he asked if he could bring Alex Otte with him.
“If I had said no, she would have never spoken to me again,” her mother said.
The family met Harrellson at the Kentucky Basketball Academy in Lexington, and there were former Wildcats Patrick Patterson,¿Perry Stevenson and Jared Prickett along with Harrellson.
“It was just unreal,” Laura Otte said. “For him just to spend so much time getting to know her for no other reason than he is just an incredible young man is unbelievable. We went to dinner with them that night. There we were watching the NBA semifinals with Patrick Patterson and Josh Harrellson. My 8-year-old child was at the head of the table. Alex was sitting between Josh and Patrick.
“It gave my children a sense that these guys are just real people and I can’t tell you how nice they were to my kids. I told Patrick as a mother, he would never understand the way I feel about you and what you have done for my 14-year-old daughter. I¿told him maybe 20 years from now when he was a parent he would truly understand what he had done for my family.”
Harrellson still texts Alex and talks to her to see how she’s doing as she continues to recover from the accident.
“I just can’t explain it. I have never hoped and prayed good things would happen for somebody like I am Josh with the NBA. I really don’t know him that well, but I hope nothing but the best for him — and Patrick, too, for what he did,” Laura Otte said.
“I sent Josh an email to thank him for what he did and he sent me a text back thanking me for the opportunity to meet my daughter and see her courage and personality and how she always had a smile,” Laura Otte said. “He said, ‘I am the one who benefitted from this the most and I intend to know what Alex is doing for a long time to come.’”
Harrellson says he was being honest when he said his time with Alex Otte had been special for him.
“My time with her just makes you appreciate everything you have and you never know when something can happen to change your life,” Harrellson said. “When I saw her at her school, it was the first time in about a year I¿had seen her. I was so thankful she was doing well, walking and communicating and all because when I saw her at the hospital, she had a lot wrong.
“She saw we were playing the game in Harrodsburg and I asked her if she would like to ride with me and a couple of players and she said yes. Seeing that smile on her face and knowing she has such a bright outlook on life despite the accident is overwhelming to me. It makes me want to do all I can to make her happy and know she is special.”
Laura Otte says Harrellson has done that and more.
“It was a senseless accident that never should have happened. But I could never have handled this the way she has. We were riding in the car recently and she burst into tears and said she had never been this happy because she has a friend (Harrellson) who likes me just because of me,” Laura Otte said. “This young man will never know what he’s done. To show up at a school of 47 kids who had worked all year to help this young lady and then play basketball with all of them for two hours is still surreal to me.
“You only her the bad things about basketball. You don’t hear a lot about the good things young people do. I am old enough to be Josh’s mom, but I truly love this young many for what he did for my daughter. I know a lot of UK fans love him, too, and that’s why I think it is important to let them all know just how special he is off the court as well.”