Chris Oates – Against All Odds
Local Winchester resident Chris Oates thoroughly enjoyed his stand out High School basketball career at Millbrook High before going on to play college basketball. It wasn’t until his Sophomore season when Oates realized he had the talent to play college basketball. He was heavily recruited by a bunch of Division 1 and Division 3 schools such as American University and Boston University. As recruiting slowed down, family friend Erick Green reached out to Oates about the potential of playing at a Division 2 school in West Virginia. Soon after, David & Elkins become the home of Oates as he received a full scholarship to play college ball after averaging an impressive 15.7 points, 4.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game as a senior. However, this was the beginning of the end for Oates at David & Elkins as a series of unfortunate events lead him to transfer after his Freshman year.
Oates preaches that the coaches whom recruited him were like family. The Assistant Coach for D&E that Oates had grown close with was let go due to cuts in the athletic department. Shortly after the Head Coach resigned for reasons that are still unknown to himself and the rest of the team. After not feeling wanted by the new Head Coach, transferring was constantly on his mind. Just four games into the season Oates was diagnosed with a heart murmur and with his health in best interest he was sidelined for the remainder of the season. Oates said nothing hurt more than having to sit out the majority of his freshman career. Playing college basketball was always a dream of his and to have it start out on this note was devastating. The pain of not playing basketball hurt more than anything.
Oates admits he struggled being in a relationship with a girl that attended another school and that by holding onto his friends from high school really held him back in his freshman year. “I was at a school with 800 kids, no social life, no parties. Video games and basketball ruled my life and basketball was taken away from me so quickly” said Oates. Watching his friends enjoy nights out from the view of his Snapchat really made him miss home, wishing that he could be somewhere other than the small town of Elkins. After a long day of studying for his finals at D&E Oates was set to drive home in the early hours of the morning to attend a surprise 80th birthday party for his beloved grandmother. Mentally and physically fatigued, Oates uncharacteristically forgot to put his seatbelt back on after stopping for gas at Sheetz. Oates crashed into a tree whilst travelling around 75 mph on State Route 127 in Hampshire County of West Virginia.
Oates suffered numerous injuries and is lucky to still be here today. A fractured vertebrae, cuts all over his head, left hand and both arms ultimately prompted his decision to transfer out of D&E. Christopher Newport University and Susquehanna University were two successful Division 3 programs that Oates looked at but instead decided to return home to Winchester to play for the Shenandoah Hornets where his brother Andrew was a member of the coaching staff. “Andrew is kinda like the person who puts everything together and kinda calms me down when things get too up or too down” said Oates. The transition from D&E to SU was “easier than ever” for Oates. He had High School friends still in the area, so he immediately felt comfortable and as clique as it sounds felt at home. Oates did not move into the campus dorms and instead opted to stay at home to be with his family and avoid paying unnecessary housing expenses. Oates said, “The most difficult thing to do was not being on campus. I miss a lot of things that happen on campus and in the dorms. At times that really took its toll on me as yet again I felt like I was missing out on the real college life.”
Just as Oates settled in to life at Shenandoah, he had high hopes for the remaining few years of his college basketball career. Early in his Junior season it was just another day, another practice, another opportunity to get better and play the game he loved. Fast approaching 100% fitness again Oates in tragic circumstances went down with a compact fracture and dislocation of the fibula and tibia, resulting in 2 plates and 11 screws being inserted to support his ankle. He missed the entire season and will not be cleared for 5 on 5 activity until next August at the earliest. Just as things were getting back on track, he was struck by another unfortunate event that will impact him for the rest of his playing career. “This year was tough, mentally along with physically. The whole experience has been eye opening because it gave me a taste of how meaningful playing basketball is and having it taken away so abruptly with no warning sucked.” Oates has missed an abnormally large amount of his playing career and says there were times like after his accident where he even questioned whether or not he wanted to play the game he loves again. As history shows Oates chose to persevere against all odds and decided that if he has made it through what he has so far in his life, he can make it through this.
So it begins, 12 long months of mental and physical torture as Oates prays he will be able to complete his first and final full season of college basketball. Many have doubted whether he will ever be the same player that he once was or even half of that, but Oates uses all this as motivation to prove everyone wrong. “It’s kinda motivational for me to try and come back better than ever”. Oates claims his rehab has been going great, “I see improvements every single day whether it is a big or even minor improvement”.
His running motion is starting to develop again, and he expects to slowly be able to ease back into jumping and basketball activity by the end of April. Oates admits that at times the long process of rehab is exhausting and frustrating. “To be honest, everything is just going slow, there’s some days where I feel like nothing is wrong and that I’m completely normal and then there’s days where I’m in pain doing something, I’ve done before.” Without the support of his family Oates doesn’t think he will be where he is today, they are always by his side through thick and thin.
Oates started out his college dream in West Virginia and found his way back home to here in Winchester. It took a heart murmur, a near death car crash and both fracturing and dislocating his ankle to realize what was important in life. He describes his college experience in one word. “Growth”. “It’s weird too like my whole high school career I was saying man I just wanna leave so I can grow up, while I did that at D&E it took me coming home to actually realize that none of that party stuff is important besides getting better as a person and as a player.” I look forward to tracking Oates’s rehab and hopefully seeing him take the court for the Hornets in his much-anticipated Senior season. I have complete faith that once again, Chris Oates will rise against all odds.