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By John Denton
July 29, 2014
LAS VEGAS -- Having idolized all of the star players of USA Basketball as a child, Victor Oladipo called the opportunity to contribute to Team USA this week ``surreal.’’
Also, the awe-inspiring experience left the usually loquacious Orlando Magic guard surprisingly speechless when trying to quantify his joy. That’s fine because plenty of others involved with USA Basketball had some extremely flattering things to say about Oladipo and his bright future with the Magic. To a man, many of the NBA’s best players and top coaches raved about Oladipo’s willingness to work on the court, his desire to improve and the infectious passion with which he plays.
To his credit, Oladipo said that he still has a lot of growth to make to be on the same level as many of the players in Las Vegas this week. Oladipo said his sole mission while working out with USA Basketball’s Select team is to soak in as much basketball knowledge as possible and use it to his benefit as he continues to work to improve.
``This can help me a lot because these are guys who I will play against during the season and they are the best players in the world,’’ Oladipo said. ``It’s only going to better myself and better my game so that during the season I can better our (Magic) team.’’
Here is a sampling of some of the comments about Oladipo’s inclusion in the USA Basketball system and his future with the Magic:
From Chicago star point guard Derrick Rose, who looked on in amazement last January when Oladipo pumped in 35 points, eight assists and three steals: ``He’s a great player already. I love how he plays and he plays with so much confidence. He totally deserves to be up here (with team USA) and I’m already a big fan of his. I love how he takes the game so serious.
``I’m here for him if he ever needs me,’’ Rose said after hearing that Oladipo hopes to pick his brain during his time with USA Basketball. ``I know how serious he takes it. He’s such a talent with his size, what he can do on the floor and how he reads opponents, especially defensively. He’s a big-time talent.’’
From reigning MVP and Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant, who has been a mentor of Oladipo’s for years because of their ties to the Washington, D.C. area: ``There’s so much happening for Vic in such a short period of time and I’m really excited for him. I’m so happy that he’s getting this opportunity because he is absolutely like a sponge and he’s soaking in everything. As a fellow Maryland and D.C. native I’m happy he’s doing well and I’m pulling for him.’’
From Executive Director Jerry Colangelo, who said that he was excited to get Oladipo into the USA Basketball system so that he could be a candidate for future Olympic and World Championship teams: ``I always have liked his game a lot. He has a lot of energy and plays with a lot of enthusiasm. He’s done a nice job for us already.’’
From Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, who had a dunk attempt blocked by Oladipo last fall in one of the plays of the year for the Magic: ``This experience will be so helpful for him coming off his rookie season. Anytime you get a chance to go out and play against some of the better players at your position for a whole week, there are so many things that you can learn. It’s a challenge that will bring out the best in you now and down the line. This will show him the things that he needs to get better at as a point guard and he can go back and work on it before the season. I think he’ll be an even better player in his second season than he was in his first season, and he was really good last year.’’
From Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who is an assistant coach for Team USA: ``This week is so good for him because these guys here are all learning from each other. Vic had a terrific first season. A lot of these guys on (the National Team) have come up through the system the same way and that’s the great value of USA Basketball. We have a deep pool of young players and they have the chance to grow and we get a chance to know them. I love the way he defends. He’s a great competitor and I think his approach to the game will just get better and better. He has a very bright future ahead of him.’’