Oakley got an early start in basketball

Published 7:02pm Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nansemond River junior guard Devon Oakley has fulfilled the potential that head coach Ed Young knew he had, even catching his coach off guard a little in helping lead the team to an impressive start this season.

After exemplary performances against Deep Creek and Lakeland and 289 votes this week, Oakley became the Suffolk News-Herald’s Player of the Week.

Nansemond River junior guard Devon Oakley has been a leader in the midst of the Warriors’ strong start to the season, playing a pivotal role in victories against Lakeland and Deep Creek. He received 289 votes to win the Player of the Week title.

“He’s been a nice surprise,” Young said. “What he’s given us number-wise I knew he was capable of. He’s our leading scorer right now, about 18 points a game.”

Oakley led the Warriors to victory on the road at Lakeland, posting 19 points, nine rebounds, six assists, five steals, three blocks and six defensive deflections.

He felt his best performance, however, came against Deep Creek later in the week. He scored 22 points, but it was his defensive play against the Hornets’ leading scorer, D’Andre Mullen, that was particularly outstanding, holding him to two points on free throws.

“DeAndre Mullen was averaging about 16 points a game, and he held him to no field goals,” Young said.

This was particularly pleasing to Young, because he has prodded Oakley to get better on the defensive side of the ball.

“He’s kind of a lazy defender, but he’s trying to show that he can (defend), and he’s been covering top guys,” Young said.

Oakley started playing with a basketball when he was young

“Actually, my dad, when I was four, probably, in kindergarten, used to always have me dribbling in the driveway,” he said. “Just every day before school, just go outside, and instead of playing with other kids, just have me dribble,” Oakley said.

“I used to hate it, but it’s paying off now,” he added.

His first experience with organized play came about two years later with the Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation. At Nansemond River, he starred for the junior varsity team last year and would have been brought up to varsity then, but an injury prevented that for most of the year.

Young lavished praise on Oakley when he indicated what distinguishes him on this year’s team.

“He’s the one guy on our team that can actually play all five positions and cover all five positions,” Young said.

Oakley admits he has wanted to play football, but his father feared that he would get seriously injured. This has not kept him from loving basketball, though.

Interestingly, Oakley still gets to indulge his love for football in preparation for basketball games, thanks to a certain Super Bowl MVP linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens.

“Well, actually, every game, before the game, I listen to a Ray Lewis speech,” Oakley said.

“The one he gave to Stanford before the game, and he talked about how you have to be pissed off for greatness.”

Oakley explained that it’s not so much about being angry at something or someone, but it’s about being hungry to succeed.

Coach Young expects Oakley’s success to continue.

“Some schools have started looking at him, some smaller schools,” Young said. “His goal, obviously, he wants to play (Division I), like all the world does, and there’s some things he still has to do to get to that level, but he has time. And he’s a smart kid. He has a 3.0 (grade point average) in the classroom, he’s well-spoken, he’s kind of quiet, but he speaks well for himself.”

Young expressed his love of having a vocal leader, but admits that the best kind of leader is the one that leads by example.

“And I think his play shows that,” Young said.

Following are this week’s Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week nominees:

  • Scott Spencer, sophomore forward/guard for Nansemond River basketball — He had 13 points, three rebounds and four steals against Hickory and later in the week served as the only bright spot against Great Bridge with a team-leading 16 points off the bench to go with seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks and four steals.
  • Sevante Williams, senior guard for Lakeland basketball — He led his team with 16 points against a strong district opponent in Western Branch.
  • Harper Birdsong, freshman guard for Nansemond-Suffolk basketball — She led her team against Bishop Sullivan with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists, hitting key free throws to keep the Crusaders at bay.

Vote by 7 p.m. Wednesday by sending an email with the subject “Player of the Week” to sports@suffolknewsherald.com. You can also vote on our Facebook page and on the Suffolk News-Herald homepage.

Next Sunday, we’ll feature the readers’ choice in a story on the sports page.

Spread the word.



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