Injury leaves Eric Katenda partially blind
Notre Dame recruit Eric Katenda, ESPNU's No. 27-ranked power forward in the 2011 class, has suffered a freak eye injury during a pickup game in early July that puts his career in doubt before he was even able to enroll in school.
According to the South Bend Tribune, the 6-foot-9 Katenda has yet to be cleared by the NCAA academically, and is dealing with a loss of vision in his left eye that can't be repaired.
I knew it was bad when it happened. It was just a freak accident.” -- Fighting Irish recruit Eric Katenda
"I knew it was bad when it happened," Katenda told the newspaper. "It was just a freak accident."
Katenda's optic nerve was severed by the force of another player's finger when they were going after a rebound during a pickup game in Washington, D.C., near where he was taking summer classes.
"Right now, I have no vision in my eye," Katenda said. "The doctors have told me that they can't do anything to fix that."
Katenda, a native of France, played his junior year at a prep academy in Connecticut, followed by a year at Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kan. But the NCAA questioned one of his courses, and he had to take summer classes at Montgomery (Md.) College, with the hopes he would be cleared to join his future teammates in South Bend this fall.
Notre Dame, which offered Katenda a scholarship as a junior, could have used him after the decision of forward Carleton Scott to turn pro.
But Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey is more concerned about Katenda's well-being and has told him his scholarship at Notre Dame would be honored regardless of his playing status, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"I don't know if I've been more depressed, handling Eric and talking to him through this," Brey told the newspaper. "He's been unbelievable. His frame of mind has picked me up a couple times on the phone."
Brey said Katenda is fully aware of the impact the injury likely will have on his future.
"He's great. He understands the reality that playing basketball at the Big East level may never be part of the equation again," Brey told the Chicago Tribune. "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."
Katenda, who has started working out again and will try specially fitted goggles, likely will return to France to spend time with his family, and possibly enroll at Notre Dame in January if he is cleared by the NCAA.
"I'm going to be at Notre Dame and I'm going to play again," Katenda told the South Bend Tribune Thursday. "I'm going to play again. I have no doubts. I'm not worrying about anything."
Diamond Leung covers college basketball for ESPN.com.