Victor Oladipo Meets Season Ticket Holders
By John Denton
September 13, 2013
ORLANDO – Victor Oladipo recounted the story of how he went from an under-the-radar player to a college All-American, told tales about superheroes and even sang a few bars of an Usher song.
Orlando Magic fans ate up every ounce of it, cheering heartily for the rookie guard and anxiously waiting in lines for his autograph and picture. Oladipo hasn’t even played a NBA game yet, but Magic fans are clearly already in love with the player who oozes charisma and determination.
``It’s definitely pretty cool meeting with different people, going up there with (Magic GM) Rob (Hennigan) and talking about myself and letting the fans know who I am,’’ Oladipo said Thursday night. ``For (Magic fans) to embrace me like they already have, it’s pretty cool. It’s definitely a humbling experience. I just can’t wait to help my teammates win for (the fans). The decision that the Magic made for me to come here definitely wasn’t a bad one.’’
Magic season-ticketholders would assuredly agree with that last statement after Thursday night’s meet-and-greet event at the Orlando Country Club. Oladipo could not have been more gracious with the fans, going around to each of the 16 tables in the ballroom to shake hands, pose for pictures and sign No. 5 jerseys. Hennigan, the man in charge of rebuilding the Magic and drafting Oladipo second overall in last June’s NBA Draft, also mingled with fans and told them about some of the reasons he fell in love with Oladipo’s game and infectious personality.
``If I could pinpoint one thing about Victor it’s his competitive spirit that really kind of emanates from him,’’ Hennigan said. ``If you watch him play, there’s a tenacity and a toughness and a will to try to win. Regardless of what sport you are trying to play, that’s the essence of any sport. He has that will power to try to win.
``So a lot of it with Victor was his intangibles, who he is as a person and how he approaches the game and life with that indefatigable, infectious work ethic,’’ Hennigan continued. ``It has gotten him to where he is today and it will hopefully propel him going forward. He jumps 40-something inches and that’s all good, but it all starts with his heart.’’
Magic season ticket-holder Maria Gloff is quite familiar with the heart and grit that Oladipo plays with after following his career at Indiana University. Gloff, an Orlando resident for the past three years, also graduated from IU and said the Magic’s selection of Oladipo has her more excited than ever about the start of the season.
``Victor was excited about meeting a fellow IU person, he was excited about meeting the fans and excited about the season,’’ said Gloff, who recently purchased an authentic Oladipo Magic jersey for her birthday and had it autographed by the guard on Thursday night. ``I can’t tell you how excited I was when the Magic picked Victor in the draft. I’ll definitely be at more games, supporting (Oladipo) and sporting my jersey. I’ve been trying to spread the word about how great Victor is going to be for the Magic and for this city.’’
The Magic open training camp on Oct. 1, play their first preseason game on Oct. 9 in Jacksonville and open the regular season on Oct. 29. The regular-season home opener is Nov. 1 against the New Orleans Hornets.
Oladipo gave a glimpse of why he was the second overall pick in the summer league when he averaged 19 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.3 steals. Incredibly, he got to the free throw line 40 times in four games by routinely blowing past foes and driving hard into the lane. A shooting guard in college, Oladipo split time in the summer league at both guard spots and he’ll do just that this season for the Magic.
Oladipo said he’s been in gym for hours daily working to better his ball-handling prior to the opening of training camp. He’s also learned that the transition from college to the NBA won’t be an easy one because of the size and speed of the players at the professional level.
``There are so many differences – everybody is just massive. Everybody is strong, everybody is fast and everybody is quick,’’ he said with a chuckle. ``This is the NBA – No Boys Allowed. This is a man’s league. I’ve already noticed that from my teammates. It might not look fast on TV, but it’s fast. Everybody can play in this league. In college I could stop a player and deny him the ball and he wouldn’t score. In the NBA, it’s their job and they do this for a living, so they’re going to score.’’
Oladipo has already formed fast friendships with fellow Magic young players Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn. The group is usually in the gym together on a daily basis, and they often hang out together off the court as well. Oladipo said he’s also gotten plenty of pointers from Magic veteran point guard and captain Jameer Nelson. Because of the talent and chemistry on the roster, the rookie feels like the Magic can surprise people this season and win more games than expected.
``There’s a whole lot of talent here and I wouldn’t even say our vets are old. We’re very well mixed and I feel like we’re going to be better than people feel like,’’ Oladipo said. ``I guess only the season can tell now.’’
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