Countdown: Oosterbaan Heads South to Georgia
by Colette Lewis
, 29 March 2013
|Share: || || |
Looking up isn't something 6-foot-8 blue chip Paul Oosterbaan does often, at least literally. But when the 17-year-old verbally committed to the University of Georgia, he had two even taller national champions serving as inspirations.
The Bulldogs' 6-foot-9 John Isner, who led Georgia to the NCAA team title in 2007
, is an obvious role model for Oosterbaan, yet it is his 6-foot-10 father J.P., a member of the University of Michigan's 1989 NCAA National Championship basketball team, who provided his most immediate example.
"My dad got a national championship in college, so I'd really like to get one of those, so he's not the only one in the family," says Oosterbaan. "Georgia seems like every year they're competing for it, so that was definitely really big."
"I've always loved playing team sports, whether it was Intersectionals or basketball in middle school," says the Hackett High School junior. "Honestly, it's just more fun than individual, getting to cheer on each other and help reach your goals at the end of the season."
Why Oosterbaan did not follow his father into basketball can be explained primarily by his hometown - Kalamazoo.
"It was really just going to Nationals and watching Scott Oudsema," says Oosterbaan, who is distantly related to the 2004 Kalamazoo 18s finalist, the only hometown player to reach the championship match at the USTA Nationals Championships there. "When he started to do well there, I honestly just wanted to have a chance to play in front of that crowd. I thought playing in front of the Kalamazoo crowd would be awesome."
Oosterbaan reached that goal the past two years, with last year proving especially satisfying. As a semifinalist in the 16s division, he drew many local fans to his Stowe Stadium matches throughout the week, although he admits they added pressure.
"As I saw last year, it was awesome, but it gets a little nerve-racking," says Oosterbaan, who puts that experience at the top of his list of junior highlights.
"Nothing beats that tournament. Two weeks after the tournament, you're ready for it again," Oosterbaan says. "But I won 16s Winter Nationals, so that was definitely a big one that boosted my confidence. I really took off and started playing pretty well after that."
It was at the Kalamazoo tournament last August that Oosterbaan drew the attention of Georgia.
"Georgia wasn't really in the picture until Kalamazoo," says Oosterbaan, who was then considering Michigan, Illinois and Notre Dame.
"They started sending me messages and stuff and I played a tournament down there in October in Atlanta (an ITF Grade 4, where he reached the final) and then went up to Athens. I really loved the school, the facility's awesome, and I really liked the coaches, even before I formally met them."
Only a junior, Oosterbaan could have waited until this fall to announce his choice, but he is now hoping to finish high school early and start at Georgia in January of 2014.