Oladipo: "Biggest Thing is That You Believe in Yourself"
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By John Denton
Nov. 15, 2014
ORLANDO – Returning to the Nation’s Capitol, not far from where his basketball career began in Upper Marlboro, Md., allows Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo a chance to visit with his family and friends.
But it also gives him a chance to go back to the place where Oladipo was often doubted as a player and many wondered if he’d ever get a college scholarship, much less make it to the NBA.
Oladipo said that, deep down, the doubters pushed him to succeed in his basketball career just as much or more than the supporters did. Playing on a powerful DeMatha High School team, Oladipo got better each year of high school and took advantage of his one scholarship offer to Indiana University. And at IU, Oladipo went from being a mostly overlooked recruit to an All-American by his junior season.
So every time that Oladipo is back in the Washington, D.C. area he said he often thinks about his unlikely rise to the NBA, all of the work that he’s put in and the doubters that fuelled his fire.
``You are always going to have people in your life who believe in you and say that you can’t do things. But the biggest thing is that you believe in yourself,’’ said Oladipo, who was back in the starting lineup on Saturday a night after playing his first game of the season because of two injuries that wrecked his preseason. ``When you believe in yourself you are capable of doing anything. I had that belief, no matter what, or who told me I couldn’t do something or who told me I wasn’t good enough. It made me work even harder. You can call them haters, or naysayers or whatever you like, but they actually helped me as much as anybody else did.’’
One person who was a big supporter for Oladipo was his mother, Joan, who travelled to Orlando when her son had surgery on Oct. 25 to repair a fractured bone beneath her right eye. Oladipo was in a great deal of pain following the surgery and the medicine he was given made him so nauseous that he had several violent fits of vomiting. Oladipo said his mother, who just so happens to be a registered nurse, was a life-saver for him.
``She did what all mothers would do, and she was there for me the whole time,’’ said Oladipo, who mother and sisters sat near courtside for Saturday’s game. ``That was my first surgery ever so I was kind of nervous, but with her there it just made everything better. For her to be there, with me struggling so bad through that week (after the surgery), it was so good for me having her there.’’
GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE: File this one under, ``A Good Problem to Have,’’ for the Magic.
With Oladipo back into the fold, head coach Jacque Vaughn had a decision to make with his starting lineup and his rotation at the two guard slots. Vaughn’s job is somewhat easier because Oladipo and Evan Fournier can play either point guard or shooting guard and he’s already used point guards Luke Ridnour and Elfrid Payton on the floor together because of Ridnour’s shooting abilities.
Oladipo, who missed six weeks with a knee injury and a facial fracture, was back in the starting lineup on Saturday in place of Payton.
In the first nine games of the regular season – Payton started at point guard and Fournier started at shooting guard. Oladipo, who missed six weeks because of a knee sprain and a fractured bone beneath his right eye, returned to action on Friday and played 25 minutes off the Magic’s bench.
With Oladipo back in the starting lineup on Saturday, the Magic are hoping to avoid disrupting the stellar play of Fournier and the development of the 20-year-old Payton.
Fournier, who only recently turned 22 years old, has played the best basketball of his career early this season while contributing four 20-point games and 10 games of double-digit scoring. He’s also been one of Orlando’s most efficient players what with his 50 percent shooting from the floor and his team-high 51.2 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Payton’s play has been typically up and down so far, hence his move into a reserve role as the Magic attempt to alleviate some pressure from him. The rookie has distributed the ball well (5.9 assists a game) and he’s limited his mistakes (2.6 turnovers a game), but he’s been a poor shooter (32.9 percent) and a reluctant shooter (one attempted 3-pointer all season).
Some of Vaughn’s burden of spreading the minutes out was relieved on Saturday night when Ridnour led the team because of a personal matter. There is a chance that the veteran point guard could rejoin the team for Monday’s game in suburban Detroit.
``When we get whole, we’ll worry about rotations. We’re just not whole yet,’’ Vaughn said. ``It’s not necessary to say that Victor’s minutes will impact Evan’s. … We’ve put Evan in a position to have success. It’s still early in the season and with our coach-player relationship, he’s still learning me as I am learning what he can do. You always hope that you can put a guy in a position to have success and he’s taken advantage of those opportunities. There’s a great confidence level there right now and we don’t want to do anything to disrupt that.’’
ETC: Orlando entered Saturday night’s game shooting 40.4 percent from 3-point range, the second-best shooting percentage behind the arc in the NBA. Only Atlanta (40.6 percent) is better. The Magic made 12 3-pointers on Tuesday in Toronto and they have hit at least three in every game this season. Said Vaughn: ``Any time that you can make shots, that’s the great equalizer. Overall, our offensive rating would be better if we shot more of those (3-pointers) and kept that percentage. If we’re six of 12 like we were (Wednesday night) in New York, I’d take that. But if we were 20 of 40, I’d take that, too.’’ … All throughout his basketball life, Aaron Gordon has been the best player on his team. But coming to the NBA as a 19-year-old rookie, he’s had to make the adjustment to being just another highly skilled player. With the Magic, he’s been used solely as an energy player off the bench – similar to the role that he had for USA Basketball’s Under-19 Team in the summer of 2013. Said Gordon: ``That role is fine for me. It’s just a matter of being on the floor. It’s doesn’t matter if you start; it matters if you finish. I get out there as a starter or a reserve, it doesn’t affect me in any way.’’ … The Magic’s road-heavy schedule early in the season will take them to suburban Detroit to play the Pistons on Monday night. It will be Orlando’s eighth road game so far compared to just four games at the Amway Center.