Oladipo receives warm reception, makes much-anticipated NBA debut

Manny Randhawa | Pacers.com

October 29, 2013

He hails from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, but he made a name for himself in Bloomington, Indiana.

So it was fitting that Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic, would come off the bench and enter his first regular season professional basketball game in the state where he became a household name across the nation.

The First-Team All-American guard, who helped Indiana reach the Sweet 16 in last season’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, walked onto the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with 5:37 remaining in the first quarter against the Pacers, and received a warm ovation from the sellout crowd.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Oladipo said after the Pacers defeated Orlando, 97-87, in the season opener. “Hoosier fans were in there and I would’ve liked to have won, but overall it was pretty cool. … It was amazing. I got a lot of love right there. It was truly a blessing for them to come out here and support me and watch me. I’m grateful and thankful.”

Oladipo’s first NBA statistic wasn’t one he would have preferred, as he committed his first career personal foul in his first seven seconds on the court. “Once I got out there, in two seconds I got a foul, and it was like, ‘wait a minute,’” he said.

But the rookie did have an impact, scoring 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting in 23 minutes on the floor. His first professional bucket was also his first NBA three-pointer, coming with 2:57 remaining in the opening period.

Oladipo said that the most important takeaway for him from his first game was learning when to be aggressive and when to be patient.

“Learning when to be aggressive and learning when I’m too aggressive, and just being able to pick my spots better [are important],” he said. “It was the first game, so it’s kind of ‘Go, go, go, go.’ But as I go throughout the season, I’ve just got to learn to have a better pace out there, and pick where I can be aggressive and where not to be aggressive.”

Oladipo said he understands that transitioning from stardom at the college level to becoming a talent in the NBA is a process, and success doesn’t always come right away.

“It just all doesn’t come overnight,” he said. “I mean, I just got here. This is my first NBA game, so it’s not all going to be perfect, it’s not all going to be set in stone. It’s a growing process, so I’ve just got to be patient and just continue to keep going.”

A man who knows perhaps better than anyone, just how talented Oladipo is and how good he could be at the NBA level, was in attendance for the debut.

Tom Crean coached Oladipo at Indiana for three seasons, and had some advice for his former star on how to approach the milestone of his professional debut.

“[He told me] to just continue to play hard,” Oladipo said. “And remember what got me here, and never forget that.”

What got him there was a stellar 2012-13 campaign in his junior year at Indiana, in which he averaged 13.6 points per game and shot 60 percent from the field, while draining 44 percent of his three-point attempts. Oladipo set a school record for most steals in a single season (78) and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

But now all of that is in the books, as is his first NBA game. And one thing about professional ball he finds preferable to the college game is the length of time between contests.

“I love the game,” Oladipo said. “And the great thing about the NBA is that if I was in college, you’d have to wait two more weeks to play another game. Here, in less than 24 hours you’re playing again. That’s the beauty of the NBA, and I’m just fortunate enough to be in it.”

Less than 24 hours after leaving the hardwood at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Oladipo and the Magic will take the floor against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. And continuing the theme of his postgame comments, he stressed that as eager as he is to get back out there, he has to approach each game as a learning experience.

“It’s frustrating because you want to be so great, and you want to help your team win so much,” Oladipo said. “At the end of the day, I’ve just got to be patient. I have to approach every day as a learning process, because like I said, it just doesn’t come overnight. So I’m just going to continue to be patient, and I hope everybody’s patient with me.”

After a much-anticipated debut, Oladipo now has an NBA stat line. What transpired in his 23 minutes of professional basketball on October 29 will now begin to sink in, settling in his mind as a memory.

Was it how he envisioned it would be? Oladipo initially answered that question in the affirmative, but quickly retracted.

“Yeah. I mean, it was … actually no,” he said. “You never know what to expect. I’m just blessed enough to be here, and I thank God for it.”

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