Friar Basketball

Otis Thorpe’s Jersey Being Retired by PC


On Saturday former Friar greats Otis Thorpe and Bruce Campbell are having their jerseys retired by Providence College during the game against Butler University. Below are some reflections on Otis Thorpe. Sunday there will be an article on Bruce Campbell.

It was the spring of 198o. The Providence College Friars’ coaching staff was counting on two key recruits from Florida, Bruce McKnight and Otis Thorpe, to help turn around a Friar program that had been in the cellar of the Big East since the conference’s formation. McKnight was the heralded recruit, while Thorpe was the raw player with a lot of upside.

Few Friar fans today know of McKnight, as he barely played for one season before fading back into anonymity. All Friar fans know who Otis Thorpe is, as he became one of a number of underrated Friar recruits who went on to achieve greatness at Providence College and beyond.

Thorpe arrived on the PC campus with an NBA-type body and spent the next four years developing his basketball skills to also reach an NBA level. From the start Thorpe was known as a rebounding machine and was able to use his incredibly large hands to his advantage.

His career at PC coincided with the glory days of the old Big East Conference. He spent his college career going up against players like Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, and Ed Pinkney and more than held his own. For his career he scored 1625 points and had 902 rebounds for the Friars. During his senior year he averaged 17.1 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game while gaining Honorable Mention All American honors.

Thorpe was the bright spot in an era when the Friar program was struggling in the Big East. He still is ranked seventh all time in rebounding at Providence, and was the first Friar to be named to the First Team All Big East Conference.

After the 1984 season Thorpe was the ninth player selected by the Kansas City Kings in an NBA Draft, considered the best draft ever by some, and included Hakeem Olajuwan, Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley among others.

Thorpe went on to have a stellar NBA career that lasted more than 17 seasons, longer than any other PC player. He finished his career with over 17,000 points and 10,000 rebounds and at one time played in 542 consecutive games. He wound up averaging 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

The highlight of Thorpe’s NBA career came in 1994 when he and Olajuwan led the Houston Rockets to the NBA title. That season he averaged 14 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. During Houston’s playoff run that year Thorpe had to go head-to0head against Buck Williams, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Charles Oakley on the way to the title.

After a 17 year career Thorpe retired in 2001 while playing for the Charlotte Hornets.

Today he is being honored by Providence College by having his jersey retired, but the Thorpe legacy will continue as his son, DJ Thorpe, a 6’8 forward in the 2019 class has already been offered a scholarship by Oklahoma State University.


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