Basketball: Van’s the man as Devon proves he’s one of city’s brightest stars

Devon Van Oostrum. Pic courtesy of Great Britain basketball
Devon Van Oostrum. Pic courtesy of Great Britain basketball

The feats of Matthew Fiztpatrick and Joe Root have been well-documented in the sports press and media over recent days.

But there’s another young man, brought up in south-west Sheffield like the other two, who has been equally prolific during the last week.

Former Silverdale school pupil Devon Van Oostrum is a well-known name in the basketball community, not just in the city but across Europe.

The 20-year-old was a star for his school team and young Sharks squads before his performances on the international stage for England earned him a move to Spain.

It was a big step for Van Oostrum, who was just 16 when he left his Millhouses home and set up in a foreign country, where picking up the language ran directly alongside learning how to be a professional sportsman.

However, the club he joined, Caja Laboral, based in the Basque city of Vitoria in the north-west of Spain, have nurtured his talent through a series of loan moves and it appears to be paying dividends.

Last year the 6’4” point guard was unlucky not to make the Great Britain squad for the Olympic Games in London. He’d performed well at the 2011 EuroBasket tournament in Lithuania and was a surprise omission when former head coach Chris Finch named his final 12 players.

His play last week at the under 20s European Championship in Romania has as good as guaranteed he’ll make a return to the senior squad for the 2013 EuroBasket in Slovenia, which starts on September 4.

The Great Britain junior squads are under threat because of funding cuts by UK Sport to basketball but by finishing runner-up to Poland and earning promotion to the top division they may have earned a stay of execution.

Van Oostrum’s performances were good enough to see him awarded the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.

Over eight matches in Pitesti, Romania, he averaged 26.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists.

Great Britain eventually went down to Poland 83-71 in the final on Sunday - they’d actually beaten the Poles 83-74 earlier in the tournament but suffered their first defeat in their last match of the competition.

Van Oostrum, like Fitzpatrick and Root, has a bright future in front of him.

It is still early in his career but many are tipping him one day to play in the NBA.

The three grew up in the same area of the city and play very different sports. Root, the eldest, is established at the very top of his profession. It will be interesting to see whether Fitzpatrick and Van Oostrum can join him.

* Van Oostrum wasn’t Sheffield’s only representative in Romania. John Stewart, a 6’6” forward, was a key member of the squad as was current Sharks player Nick Lewis, who has dual British-Canadian citizenship.

* Follow The Star sports writer Richard Fidler on Twitter @richardfidler and Google+ follow Richard Fidler on Google+.