Devon Van Oostrum made his return to competitive European hoops on Wednesday night as the 25 year old looked to hit a reset with New Heroes Den Bosch and make up for lost time. Emmet Ryan checked out the return of the Dutchman who was once the young face of British hoops
It can’t have been fun to be Devon Van Oostrum the past two seasons, at least from a basketball perspective. After spending most of his stint with Baskonia on various loan assignments, the Netherlands born Great Britain international who had the world at his feet in 2013, looked to reset things in Greece and then Skopje before injury utterly wrecked matters for the past two seasons.
The one thing that has been on Van Oostrum’s side throughout the frustration is time. He’s only 25, he’s got time to sort things out despite playing at the deepest position on the continent. He’s opted for a hard reset, going all the way down to the Dutch League which is quite the way away from his time with an ACB powerhouse like Baskonia.
The move however is to the right kind of environment. It’s the home of his parents, it’s to a club with serious support and a real history in the sport. New Heroes* Basketball, better known as Den Bosch, is a place where he’s got the opportunity to fix things and aim for a higher level.
*The sponsors are an elearning company for those of your wondering
Things really needed fixing based on the early going with his return to European competition on Wednesday night as he started against BC Balkan from Bulgaria in the FIBA Europe Cup. Van Oostrum has told Simonas Baranauskas about the importance of the competition in the build-up to the game and you could see his hunger early but his body was still trying to catch up with his brain.
Van Oostrum was happy to run early, driving inside on the second possession of the game for Den Bosch. This was quickly followed by an effort at a long three. Then he made another drive, into a wall of players, but Den Bosch managed to turn it into a three.
Much as the hunger was there for Van Oostrum, the small matter of winning couldn’t be ignored. This was the first leg of a two-legged qualifier. Get past BC Balkan, and Den Bosch would have at least six more games on the European stage to get eyeballs on the guard.
Finally, he got the play he needed. A hard fakeout of Ventislav Petkov cleared the lane and he drove in for the score. Then he made two threes, the second after getting bored of an option inside failing to open up. While he racked up 8 points in 7 minutes, there were still some blindingly obvious kinks to work out.
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Van Oostrum gave up a soft turnover and quickly sat, momentarily forgetting the pace and energy of the opponents. Another came along shortly after he came back in, this time failing to read the pace of Nick Oudendag accurately.
The story of Van Oostrum’s night would neatly work around how he gelled with Oudendag. The Dutch international, who was a big part in getting that side to EuroBasket 2015, looked like he had hands of stone in the first half but as the game wore on it became clear that it was really about Van Oostrum getting his chemistry down at game pace with those around him.
The gap between the opening two quarters also saw the worst half court shot I’ve ever witnessed online, in person, or any way. The lad came out and three it like a football throw-in only it barely went up, it was a borderline foul throw in that sport, and went straight down.
An 11-0 run from the visitors put Den Bosch in a hole although a turnaround step-back fadeaway jumper from Van Oostrum gave the side some spark. Through the end of the first half however it was clear that despite his individual moments, the side moved smoother with Keshun Sherrill on the floor in place of him. The 24 year old American is in his second year with Den Bosch and, more than the energy he brought off the bench, his familiarity with the offence and the pieces around him made it easier for the Dutch side to create.
Things were at a more manageable 36-39 score entering the break and Sherrill stayed in to start the third. It was when Van Oostrum got in this time that we finally saw a calmer player who was taking just that little shade off enough to be able to work at the pace of those around him, as well of his own body.
His first dime was a nice but simple feed to Oudendag in motion through the lane. The second was a far more splashy no look drop off to Oudendag for the finish. The gap was still alright entering the final 10 minutes, 57-61, but you could feel the rush was still there. Van Oostrum tried a stepback jumper that was always a lower percentage effort and that overdoing it saw him sit again.
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There are worse places to have to contemplate things for a while. Den Bosch’s arena, Maaspoort, is just a joy as small barns go. It’s 2,700 but really tight which makes it look far bigger. That’s the type of imposing shape that can give a real home advantage.
With the game entering the business stages the Dutch side opted to play Sherrill and Van Oostrum, with the latter as a nominal 2, but the Bulgarian visitors went on a run with 65-68 quickly becoming 66-77.
Van Oostrum managed to make another deep ball in the closing moments and got back to line late but the final score of 76-86 leaves them in a big hole. It’s not just 10 points, it’s a big disadvantage before a road game in Bulgaria next Tuesday. That’s likely to be the last time this season DVO plays on the European stage.
His stat-line for the night was solid enough with 17 points on 5 of 12 shooting along with 9 rebounds and 3 assists. There were points where his legs were genuinely trying to keep up with the upper half of his body but the confidence in his performance was obvious throughout.
Mentally that’s a huge boost for Van Oostrum and he was happy to go into contact despite spending the guts of two years out of the game. The issues out there can be fixed with time and not a whole lot of it. He just needs reps and he’s in the right place to get them. It’s one game, it’s a loss, but it’s a big step for a former prospect working off a clean slate.
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