Denton: Oladipo Thrilled to be in Orlando

By John Denton
June 28, 2013

ORLANDO – When he finally hit the bed in the early hours of Friday morning, not long after accomplishing his lifelong dream of becoming a first-round NBA pick, Victor Oladipo reflectively contemplated all of the hard work he had put in and the arduous climb he made as a basketball player.

His body was still pumping adrenaline and sleeping was a difficult proposition, so Oladipo’s mind raced for hours. Even though he had just become the second overall pick by the Orlando Magic and was savoring the enjoyment of that moment, the shooting guard couldn’t help but also fixate on the many doubters he had encountered along the way from high school to college and now to the NBA.

Even more questions came on Thursday night about his lack of height, his sometimes shaky jump shot and his lofty draft selection, and Oladipo couldn’t wait to get to work with the Magic in order to prove the doubters all wrong once again.

``I still have a chip on my shoulder,’’ admitted Oladipo, an under-the-radar high school player who evolved into a collegiate All-American and top NBA Draft pick for the Magic. ``There are a lot of people saying, `I don’t know if he should have gone there (at No. 2), I don’t know if he has the skills.’ I’ve been overlooked all my life and it’s nothing new to me. But now I’ve just got to continue getting better and continue to keep working.’’

When he got to Orlando on Friday to meet Magic executives and the coaching staff and the Central Florida media, Oladipo talked of a work ethic that helped him become a key player in Thursday’s NBA Draft. His combination of talent, maturity, drive and will to get better convinced the Magic that he was the player who could become a key building block for the franchise’s foundation.

``Vic is someone we followed throughout the entire season and as we got to learn more and more about him and his great family, we really grew to respect what he stands for and what he’s all about,’’ Magic GM Rob Hennigan said. ``How he approaches basketball and life, and his fortitude and ambition that he carries on a daily basis – we feel like those ingredients serve as a really strong backbone for future success.’’

Oladipo is quite a success story, rising from a mostly overlooked player in high school in Maryland to one of the most celebrated players in college basketball this past season. He ranked 144th in the nation as a high school prospect and no better than 41st among shooting guards. But after three years in college, he was a consensus All-American – a climb that even he marvels at from time to time.

Oladipo’s scoring average and proficiency as a shooter improved each season at Indiana University and rose to this past season to where he averaged 13.6 points while shooting 59.9 percent from the floor.

He is somewhat of a self-made player, relying on the work ethic taught to him by parents Christopher and Joan Amanze Oladipo, who immigrated to America from Nigeria in 1985. His father has a PhD in behavioral science, while his mother is a nurse who often worked the night shift between shuttling four kids 90 minutes to Catholic school at DeMatha High School.

``My parents came over here 27 years ago from Nigeria and I always saw how hard they had to work for us to have a better life, just for us to eat and put food on the table and for us to go to Catholic school,’’ Victor said. ``I’ve just been working hard all my life. In order to succeed in this world you have to work hard. I’ve been pretty much overlooked my entire life, so I had to work hard to get to this point. I thank God that I’m at this point.’’

The Magic’s second-round pick, Oklahoma power forward Romero Osby, was also in Orlando on Friday after being selected with the 51st overall pick. Osby was at home with his family in Meridian, Miss., when he learned that he had been drafted. The 6-foot-8, 240-pounder is hoping to impress Magic coaches and executives in the Pro Summer League in early July in order to earn an invite to training camp in October.

``I am able to bring that defensive effort because it starts there in the NBA when you are playing against the best players in the world,’’ Osby said. ``The scoring and rebounding is something that I can add, but the defensive end is where I will thrive with my athleticism and strength.’’

An unquestioned strength for Oladipo is his ability to defend perimeter players. What he might lack with his 6-foot-3 ¼ height, he makes up for it with long arms that give him an 6-foot, 9-inch wingspan and an 8-foot, 5-inch standing reach. He led the Big Ten in steals and was named the nation’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year this past season.

Those are traits that Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn are very proud to hear. Vaughn got heavily involved in the draft process, and the more he saw the defensive tenacity of Oladipo, the more he liked him.

``Just today you see the maturity level and toughness that comes out just in communication. And you see his desire and passion for the game of basketball, so those things are special,’’ Vaughn said. ``At this level for us to be good for a long time, we need individuals like Victor in our locker room. My first impression of him was extremely high and it didn’t change as the process played itself out.’’

Most of the work that Oladipo did on his game over the past three years was to improve a jump shot that needed fixing. He shot just 30.8 percent from 3-point range as a freshman and only 20.8 percent from three as a sophomore, before making the jump to a respectable 44.1 percent this past season. Hennigan, who has scouted Oladipo for three years, has been blown away by the progression – so much so that he ribbed the shooting guard about the struggles from early in his career on Friday.

``If you just take a look at where Victor was his freshman year and where he is now, it’s a night and day difference,’’ Hennigan said. ``We remember watching him as a freshman and, no offense, but if he stood on the shore he probably couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean. But now that’s different. Now that couldn’t be further from the truth. That speaks to his willpower.’’

It is a willpower that won’t fade just because he’s now the highest Indiana University player to be drafted since Isiah Thomas in 1981, Oladipo stressed. He said that while it’s nice to have his work rewarded with a lofty draft selection, it’s his hunger and those perpetual doubters who will push him to continue to work hard for the Magic.

``A year ago, nobody was saying one word about me and nobody really knew who I was. I know where I’ve come from. I know what kind of background that I come from,’’ he said. ``At the end of the day, accolades are nice, but if you don’t produce it can all be taken from you in a second.

``I’m never satisfied, but I’m grateful with where I am,’’ Oladipo continued later. ``Now, I’m just looking to keep growing as a player. There are people out there who doubted me, and there’s nothing like being doubted. To me, there’s nothing like proving people wrong.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.





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