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Dev's proof that we don't always get the ending we want ... or deserve

It was all there, planned and ready. Senior year for Dev Ostrowski, the whiz kid at East Lyme High, the kid whose jumpers and dunks rain like hailstones on his opponents, the kid we'd all pay to see.

And then we learned all over again that the Great Unwritten Script — the reason sports captivate our attention — can leave us shaking our heads sometimes.

It began early last summer when Ostrowski got zapped with appendicitis, thus robbing him of the ever-important time between junior and senior year for aspiring basketball players. No basketball meant no opportunities for college coaches to evaluate and almost certainly offer him a scholarship.

Then came the high school season, the kid almost singlehandedly responsible for sustaining the swell of fan interest in the region, until about 10 days ago when cruelty struck again, this time with a season-ending foot injury.

It wasn't supposed to end this way for a young man, ever gentlemanly, who deserves better.

It won't be the same Wednesday night inside Waterford's Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse, site of the rematch between East Lyme and Waterford, the region's best recent rivalry. Ostrowski rained 37 on Waterford last month, producing East Lyme's overtime victory, Waterford's only loss and a compelling setup for Round Two.

Now the biggest star in the place will be on the bench.

And so let me speak on behalf of anybody who has even a twinge of interest in sports here in our corner of the world:

Thank you, Dev.

It was a privilege watching you.

(And you'd get royalties from GameDay if there were any because of so many people tuning in to watch you play.)

Ostrowski treated us to an inordinate number of 40-point games, 3-point shots from across the street and volcanic dunks inside full gyms. But his legacy — 2,000-plus points notwithstanding — was his comportment. Never did Ostrowski allow the moment to overwhelm him. Never did he lapse into excessive celebration, gyrations, stare downs or look-at-me chest-beatings that make sports today so disturbing.

He was the kid the dad would point to for his kid to emulate. Kind of like this: If you need to know how to act in times of euphoria or peril, just look at whatever Dev happens to be doing. It's testimony to the way his parents raised him and the way Jeff Bernardi has coached him.

My favorite Dev story:

Dan Spellman, the former coach at East Lyme and dad to Waterford High senior Liam Spellman, has been nice enough to appoint me as his assistant coach for a few AAU games in recent years. Dan coaches the "Hoosiers," a group of kids from the region, including Max Lee (St. Bernard), Nik Hay (NFA), Zach Southard (Montville), Dev and Luke Leonard (East Lyme) and a number of Waterford kids.

We were playing in Rhode Island against a team from Providence. Tie game at 70. Thirty seconds left. Our ball. Timeout. Dan turns to me and says, "What do you think?"

I replied with my best-ever coaching advice:

"Give the ball to Dev."

So we did.

And Dev stood there. And stood there. And stood there. And despite yelling from the sidelines and perhaps a few of George Carlin's Seven Words You Can't Say on TV ... Dev dribbled out the clock.

He thought we were winning by one.

And this is why I love the kid: He managed to giggle when I asked him later whether they teach math at East Lyme.

(We lost in overtime, too.)

I wish I had something pithy here to explain why such a good kid got his senior year cut short. But this is what I believe: Things really do happen for a reason. And one day, Dev will look back and understand why this happened. It's like one of my favorite quotes, attributed to a philosopher named Debasish Mridha:

"Remember that everything that is happening around you, good or bad, is in some way conspiring to help you."

Here's hoping the reasons become clearer to Ostrowski and family soon. Meanwhile, let's be thankful we got a chance to see the kid play. Even if for too short of a time.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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