Jack Majewski speaks to GB player Devon van Oostrum after his performance in the London 2012 International Basketball Invitational in preparation for the European Championships in Lithuania.
JM: Devon, I vividly remember you playing 12 months ago at Future Stars when you led the English U-18 team. Now you are successfully holding court against such playmaking masters like Tony Parker, Marko Popovic and Milos Teodosic .It must be such a massive learning curve for you?
DVO: It was probably the best basketball experience of my life. I could learn so much from these guys and hopefully I did. It showed in the game against Australia, easily my best in the tournament when I felt really confident
JM. Well, you are quite modest. In the game against Australia you looked by far the best guard on the floor. Are you ready to assume the position of starting point guard for GB team at the age of 19?
DVO: I really don’t know. I don’t even think about the starting spot right now. I’m concentrating on making the team. If Chris Finch will take me to Lithuania I will be extremely happy. Then we will see how the situation will develop.
JM: How would you assess your last 12 months in Caja Laboral? Obviously your progress is quite startling.
DVO: Obviously this is a very good programme which takes great care of the development of young players. They spend so much time on individual technique and provide a great strength and conditioning programme. I play on the junior team and 2nd men’s team, so every weekend I had 2 games .That is absolutely crucial that I’m playing non-stop. There is no substitute for a constant game experience.
JM: You are a pure example of very a successful young English player who took the “European route” instead of choosing an American school. What advice would you give to other young hopefuls who would like to follow your footsteps?
DVO: I have chosen a European club instead of an American school because they concentrate far more on individual development instead of winning games. That was very important to me. Caja is a great establishment and in my 2 years there I developed and matured greatly. Of course you are missing on college experience but being with a professional club prepares you better for your playing career.
JM: So what will be an immediate future of yours Devon?
DVO: Well, I don’t like thinking too much about my future .At this moment I’m concentrating on making the team for Lithuania. Beyond that I simply don’t know yet.
JM: Do you have a sense of almost historic moment when you can lead a wave of young, exciting immensely talented GB to the real international success. Even more importantly can you establish GB as a one of the European super-powers for decades?
DVO: We definitely would like it to happen. I had a couple of good years in Europe, but now when I’m entering the professional scene everything will be brought to a completely new level. I really hope that I will be able to make my mark next season.
JM: What needs to happen in England to produce more Devon’s and bring basketball to the mainstream of sporting public conscious?
DVO: We need more events like that [London 2012 Test Event], far better facilities and far more TV exposure. BBL should be televised, no matter that it is a poor quality. Presence on TV would bring so much more exposure to the game. Of course we need far more exposure for the GB team. At this moment sport in the media concentrates on football, rugby and cricket, and basketball is nowhere to be seen. For the past 20 years we are talking that basketball needs more exposure in the media, so let’s do something about it. Now is the best time!
JM: What about the coaching system for junior groups and lack of international contact?
DVO: Again, the lack of facilities is a big problem. Young players have no place to train. When I was younger I had to go to the nearby park to practice. I hear exactly the same stories from all over the country. Certainly this is not a way to develop young players to the international standard. There is also a big problem with very rare contact with the European basketball scene. Basically the only chance to play against international opposition is during a junior European Championship and Future Stars. Of course they provide a good experience but it is far too little
Photographs courtesy of Mansoor Ahmed Photography