Denton: Oladipo and Wade Share Close Bond

By John Denton
March 1, 2014

MIAMI – The friendship between Victor Oladipo and Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade is one that dates all the way back to when the Orlando Magic rookie was in high school and is so strong that Wade said he considers Oladipo to be ``family.’’

Oladipo and Wade spent lots of time together at the NBA All-Star Game, with Wade offering up advice on making it through the rigors of the NBA and alternating positions between shooting guard and point guard. Wade said the two have communicated regularly for years, and he praised Oladipo for being a willing listener.

``I love the way that his game has progressed. Obviously when he first went to Indiana to his last year there, he had some amazing flashes. He has the confidence in his game and himself to be a special player. He has the will to want to be great – that’s half the battle – and obviously he has the talent,’’ said Wade, who like Oladipo played for coach Tom Crean in college. ``He’s someone that I communicate with often. When he was in college and now that he’s in the NBA, I give him words of encouragement. We talked a lot at All-Star Weekend. I look at him as a part of my family from a sense of basketball and he’s from the Tom Crean family.’’

Oladipo said the two have talked extensively about their experiences of shuttling between the guard positions as young players. Wade was a shooting guard in college at Marquette, but was originally drafted by the Heat to be a point guard. After one season, Wade was moved back to his natural position of shooting guard.

Oladipo was a shooting guard at Indiana, but the Magic have played him at both guard spots this season. The only Magic player to appear in all 61 games, Oladipo has made 32 starts at shooting guard and three starts at point guard. He usually plays both positions during games, and he’s turned to Wade for advice on the intricacies of each spot.

``We’ve talked about that (Wade used to play point guard),’’ Oladipo said. ``It’s hard not to patent your game after somebody that you can relate to so much. I’ve watched him for years and he’s a great player.’’

Oladipo said his first meeting with Wade had a huge impact on his life and ultimately helped him pick Indiana as his collegiate choice. A senior in high school in Maryland, Oladipo first got to meet Wade at a Father’s Day luncheon at the White House

``I was trying to figure out if I wanted to go to Indiana, and I really had no choice because it was the only school (recruiting him), but I was trying to figure out if it was the best move for me,’’ Oladipo recalled. ``I was in his group along with Antawn Randal-El, who also went to Indiana (to play football). I remember asking (Wade) how he liked Tom Crean as a coach and he told me, `He’s the reason that I am the man that I am today.’ That rung a bell in my head and I knew I was going to Indiana. That’s where I first met him and in college we grew a relationship. He came down to (Indiana) one time during the playoffs and we hung out and watched film. We just grew a relationship from there.’’

Wade predicted that Oladipo will be a better player in the long run of his NBA career for having learned both the shooting guard and point guard positions as a rookie. He thinks the Magic’s prized No. 2 pick has a bright future ahead of him.

``I could tell the frustration from him when we played them once. He was out there on the court trying to figure it out and I went through the same things,’’ Wade said. ``But at the end of the day, he’s a player like I was a player. You’d rather be out there with the ball in your hand and having an opportunity than not have it.

``That (playing point guard) made me a better player; it made me read the game a lot better,’’ Wade continued. ``Even though I couldn’t wait to move to the (shooting guard position), it made me read the game better and make plays better. It’s something that Coach Crean started doing my last year of college, putting me at the backup point position and getting me comfortable and it worked.’’

MO VS. LEBRON: Still a teenager last season when he was asked to check Miami Heat superstar forward LeBron James for the first time, Orlando’s Maurice Harkless got to experience the feeling of being all along against the game’s best player.

Harkless said the feeling is almost indescribable when the Heat spread the floor, put the ball into James’ hands and then let him go one-on-one against his defender. Harkless said there is a naked feel to the experience because you are all along to contend with the size, strength and speed of James, and everyone in the arena can see you if you fail.

``It takes you back to when you were young playing in the park and everything is a clear-out or a one-one-one,’’ Harkless said of the experience. ``With anybody coming at you, you don’t know what they are going to do and you have to just react. And with LeBron coming, you just have to react and hope that the help behind you gets there.’’

Over the last two seasons the Magic have purposely put the 6-foot-9 Harkless up against some of the game’s greatest players in an attempt to shorten his learning curve. But he said before Saturday night’s game against the Heat that James is by far the most difficult to defense because of his skill set and his understanding of the game.

``I’ve never played against anybody like him because he’s one of the strongest guys in the league, one of the fastest guys in the league and he’s really athletic,’’ Harkless said. ``That’s why he’s the best player in the league. He’s going to make shots and get dunks, but you just have to keep playing. Just because he makes one play, you can’t let that affect the next play.’’