BOYS BASKETBALL

Sharp-shooting Osburn gives Valpo big bench boost

2013-02-14T18:15:00Z 2013-02-14T19:03:47Z Sharp-shooting Osburn gives Valpo big bench boostJim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com
February 14, 2013 6:15 pm  • 

"Don't let him shoot."

Whenever Justin Osburn checks into the Valparaiso lineup, the same command emanates from the opponent's bench.

After the Vikings junior splashed four 3-pointers back in December against Crown Point, the scouting report quickly made its way around the region. You gotta get a hand up on No. 10.

"When I get (an open shot), I have to knock it down," Osburn said. "When they're not going in...if they're face-guarding me, I have to find other ways to help out, get an assist, a rebound, a defensive stop.

"I want to be defined as a team player, not someone who just shoots, but someone who does it all -- dribble, pass, rebound, play defense."

A starter all his life, Osburn has taken well to his new role, providing instant offense coming off the bench for the senior-laden Vikings. He averages 7.8 points per game while shooting 40 percent from outside the arc and 58 percent inside it.

"He's really blossomed as a player," coach Joe Otis said. "He's really been an important part of our success. Teams know they can't leave him open, but we're creative enough to find ways to get our shooters open.

"He's fearless. He's gone inside and made some spectacular plays attacking the basket against people six, seven inches taller."

Osburn's brother Ryan was a senior when Valpo went 22-3 and reached the regional final in 2004-5.

Like his sibling, the 5-foot-10 Justin wasn't blessed with height but he did inherit the same shot-making gene as Ryan, who's now the JV coach at Wheeler.

"I've compared my level of play to his," Justin said. "I beat him one on one for the first time this year. I watched him when I was little and he shot the lights out. He was my inspiration growing up.

"I wanted to match his success, going to regional and semistate, and go further."

A consummate gym rat, Osburn has been around basketball all his life.

His dad Steve is a Valpo middle school coaching legend of sorts, having developed talent for the high school program since the 1980s. He remains a post-game mentor to Justin, who appreciates the honesty in his critiques as well as the insight.

"Steve's the best eighth grade coach in all of Indiana as far as I'm concerned," Otis said. "We're lucky to have him."

Dad also has keys to the gym, where Justin spends a couple hours every day in the summer, hoisting 500 jump shots and working on his ball-handling, at times by himself.

A broken right wrist hampered his shooting last season, but the silver lining was the development of his left hand.

Osburn also spent considerable time in the weight room at JV coach Matt Thomas' urging to strengthen his 150-pound frame for the physical rigors of the varsity level.

He is now the second strongest player on the team, bench pressing 195 pounds.

"'Ozzy' getting stronger made him a quicker player," Otis said. "If he wasn't as quick, it might be a different story. He's developed confidence. He's had one horrible shooting game. I asked him what he was going to do and he said keep shooting.

"That's the philosophy I've always wanted my shooters to have. Don't worry about the last shot. Worry about your next one."

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