Reinking leads hoops quartet on pioneering Olympic mission

At 38-years-old, Nate Reinking has had to wait a long time for his Olympic debut.

A veteran guard with a wealth of court experience, American-born Reinking could have played for the all-conquering USA team in his youth.

But having spent the majority of his playing career in England, he will make his long-awaited Olympic bow as a member of the host team as Great Britain enters the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments for the first time since 1948 – the last time the Games were held in London.

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Reinking has won 65 caps for Great Britain. NBA star Loul Deng might be the British team’s star attraction this summer, but Sheffield Sharks legend Reinking is their most experienced.

“Well, I have pretty much been the oldest guy in the squad for a while now,” says Reinking, with a little chuckle.

“I try and help bring through the young guys and use my experience and advice to support them, leading by example.

“All our young players should have nice long careers and blossom into top stars.

“As long as we can get all the talent that we have firing at London 2012, get a couple of wins and some momentum, then I don’t see why we can’t go on a roll at the Olympics.”

There would be no finer moment to bow out than the Olympics but the Sharks veteran is not setting a date for retirement.

“I never say never,” says Reinking. “The Olympics will be the pinnacle of my career and it’s nice to leave on a high but we will see. I would really like to coach at some point and that’s going to be my next move.”

Now in his second spell at the Sharks, Reinking is clearly happy in the Steel City.

“I have played here for a few seasons now, I know a lot of people and it’s great living here,” says Reinking, who has played under current GB coach Chris Finch for three different clubs.

Like many Olympians, Reinking combines his playing career with studies. He is reading for a Masters in Sports and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University, which he admits has been a challenge.

But he is a man well-versed in adjusting to new situations, revealing that although he once dreamed of playing for the powerful Team US, he is more than content to now do his bit to help develop the game in Britain.

“I’ve been on an unusual journey,” he admits. “Ideally, if you’re an American you dream about playing for the US, but GB has been the next best thing.

“The opportunity arose six years ago and I jumped at the chance, it’s where my heart lies now.

“With the Olympics here this year, we have the potential to make the sport comparable to how it is in the US.”

Reinking’s former Sheffield Sharks team-mate Devon Van Oostrum is another GB star with strong Yorkshire connections, and one that the Sharks guard is tipping for the top.

“Van Oostrum has already had a good start to his career in Spain. Hopefully, he will stay there and keep developing on the international stage too,” says Reinking of his future Olympic team-mate.

Van Oostrum, 19, was born in Holland but raised in South Yorkshire. His father is an English lecturer at the University of Sheffield and Van Oostrum joined the Sharks aged seven.

He enjoyed nearly a decade with the Sheffield club before moving on to the continent in 2009 and last year broke into the GB senior international set-up. Capped 14 times, Van Oostrum was British Basketball’s ‘Emerging Athlete of 2011’.

Sheffield has also helped top-class women players on their journey to the Olympics, with Stephanie Gandy and Lauren Thomas-Johnson both set to feature for Great Britain at London 2012.

The two Sheffield Hatters players have been selected for the squad which will play Angola, Australia and France in warm-up matches during a pre-Games training camp in Sheffield in July.

American-born Gandy is in her second spell at the club, having helped the Hatters to league titles and national cup successes.

Thomas-Johnson, 23, has played in the States, Iceland and Spain and is now settled in Sheffield with the Hatters.

For regular basketball fans in Sheffield, the chance to see this quartet stride the boards at their first Olympics is unmissable.