Cherry Hill West's Oztamur adjusting to basketball - and the United States

Can Oztamur
Can Oztamur
Posted: January 20, 2014

Can Oztamur was feeling it.

The 6-foot-5 Cherry Hill West junior kept backing up while hitting three-pointers. He drilled four in a recent win over Shawnee and each successive shot seemed to come from deeper range.

Sometimes he would bring the ball up and throw a no-look pass after getting the rebound. Other times he would post in the blocks.

Which raises the question: What position does he play?

"I can play inside or outside if needed," he said.

He admittedly would rather play outside, and it's easy to see why.

Oztamur has a great shooting stroke, terrific vision, and can make the spectacular pass.

Maybe more impressive than his well-rounded game is how quickly Oztamur has adapted not only to basketball but the culture in the United States.

He was born in San Francisco, but after a few months his family moved to Turkey, where his father, Murat, was a professional basketball player. His family moved to Cherry Hill during the summer before his freshman year, and Oztamur said he knew very little English.

That's difficult to tell now as he converses freely and has certainly picked up the basketball jargon.

"I like to drive to the basket and dish," he said.

He jokes that he learned the language through rap music.

Actually, becoming part of the basketball team was the best teacher.

"When kids are part of a sports team you get automatic friends, and it makes the transition easier," West coach Hamisi Tarrant said. "He learned a lot about the language from just playing basketball with these guys."

Can, whose first name is pronounced John, is strong, and Tarrant said he'd like to see him play down low more. The two have had more than one debate on this topic.

"He is unstoppable inside," Tarrant said. "That doesn't mean he can't come out, come off a screen, and shoot the ball from the outside."

Then again, when he shows such deep range, it's easy to see why Oztamur likes to play on the perimeter.

"He handles the ball well and can get his shot off whenever he wants to," said Shawnee coach Joe Kessler, who saw Oztamur score 27 points in a 67-59 win over the Renegades.

Oztamur's father is 6-foot-7, so the youngster may not be done growing.

His game certainly continues to evolve. Entering the weekend he was averaging 20 points and seven rebounds per game for the 6-4 Lions.

He believes he can play small forward on the next level, but Tarrant said that will depend on how well Oztamur will be able to defend on the perimeter.

This has been Oztamur's first full varsity season. As a freshman he played mainly JV, and last season he missed a majority of the season because of an operation to repair meniscus in his knee. Now he is feeling fine, and it shows in his play.

With this being his first full varsity season, Oztamur's name is just getting out there. But teams certainly know about him.

"I'm seeing a lot of double teams," he said.

Oztamur's goal is to play in college. For now he said he is looking to improve his game and his grasp of English. Imagine coming to a new country and having to learn a new language.

"Early on it was really hard, but I have a lot of friends and they have helped me out a lot," he said.

He has made remarkable progress in this country in a relatively short period of time. While the position he plays is still being defined, there is no denying the wide skill-set and presence that Oztamur brings to the basketball court.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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