Denton: Hoosier Nation Spreads Across Country in Support of Oladipo

By John Denton
Feb. 3, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS – Considering that Victor Oladipo was in a place Sunday night just 54 miles from where he went to college, there was little surprise that autograph-seekers and fans waiting for the rookie’s arrival into Indianapolis.

But what has been somewhat surprising for Oladipo has been the way Indiana University alumni and fans have come out to Orlando Magic games this season to support the former Hoosier. It’s too be expected that dozens of crimson-clad fans packed Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday, just as they did back in late October when Oladipo made his NBA debut.

But even in far-flung places such as Portland, Oklahoma City and Los Angeles, IU fans have come out in droves to watch Oladipo play in the NBA. Often, Oladipo has met with the groups prior to the games, posing for pictures and signing autographs with some of his most loyal fans.

``It’s kind of crazy. A lot of people don’t even know me, but they are just happy to see me,’’ said Oladipo, who the Magic drafted second overall out of Indiana last June. ``It’s definitely a blessing for me to impact their lives like that. I’m just going to go out and keep playing hard.’’

Oladipo, who made his second career start at point guard Monday night, feels that the reason IU faithful continues to support him is because he was part of the class that helped revive Hoosier basketball. His IU team reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in 10 seasons when he was a sophomore and it got to the Elite Eight during his junior year.

``There are IU fans in Oklahoma City and all over the place and wherever we go,’’ Oladipo said with a laugh. ``They’re either wearing the candy stripes (on pants) or the IU jerseys. It’s a blessing to have a fan base like that.’’

NICHOLSON NEEDING AGGRESSION: When the season began on Oct. 29 there was great hope for Magic forward Andrew Nicholson, who battered the Pacers for 18 points and two 3-pointers on eight of 10 shooting.

Nicholson proved himself to be a capable low-post scorer in his rookie season. But he has struggled with his confidence this season as he’s been shuffled in and out of the Magic rotation.

In 75 games last season, Nicholson got 325 shots in the paint for an average of 4.33 looks a game. In his first 46 games of this season, Nicholson has gotten just 119 shots in the paint or 2.58 tries a game. His shooting percentage in the paint has also dropped from 56.3 percent last season to 51.2 percent this season.

Some of the reason has been Nicholson’s expanded shooting range. After not attempting a 3-pointer last season, he’s attempted 69 threes this season with 21 makes. However, 14 of those 3s came in the first 21 games and he’s made just seven in the past 28 games.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said he still has faith in Nicholson that he can give the team an offensive spark and he went to him twice on Sunday in Boston. But Vaughn was not happy to see Nicholson pass the ball out after corralling a rebound. He wants him to play with more of an aggressive nature and look to score more.

``It’s sometimes tough finding the right matchup and finding what’s going to be conducive to our success,’’ Vaughn said. ``Andrew really tries to do the right thing. You take the other night when he gets two offensive rebounds. He’s trying to do the right thing, be an unselfish team and share the basketball and he throws it out. But he has the ability to take one dribble and score that thing. Finding that balance of doing the right thing and being selfish for his team is important for him.’’

Nicholson said he has to get back to attacking more in the post to jump-start his offensive game. He went into Monday night having scored just nine points in the last seven games and he’s had just one double-digit scoring night – 12 points in Cleveland on Jan. 2 – in the past 23 games.

Said Nicholson: ``I’ve got to get back to that (attacking). On that play (that Vaughn was referring to), I thought somebody else was open. Everything will definitely come back to the way that it was. … I’ve got to continue getting better in every aspect. I’m trying to find the open man. I can be more aggressive (in the post) and I just have to get better with that.’’