For Victor Oladipo, this is all just a dream. Four years ago, Oladipo was a high school player looking to improve his game in order to get a legit college scholarship. Playing for heralded DeMatha (MD) High School and running with Team Takeover on the AAU circuit, he was an afterthought to most high-major programs. Indiana, in the midst of a rebuilding effort, took a glimpse at Oladipo during the live period and was the first BCS program to put a scholly on the table. Looking back on it, it seems as if there was a method to Tom Crean’s madness for a team that had just finished last in the Big Ten.
After an outstanding regular season in which the Hoosiers sat atop the AP poll for a stretch, IU took an L to Syracuse in the Sweet 16, but certainly not because of the play of Oladipo. The 6-5 swingman posted averages of 13 and 6 while playing lockdown D against the opposing team’s top perimeter player. Additionally, he shot 60 percent from the field, 44 percent from three, and 75 percent from the line. The maturation in his game didn’t come overnight, though.
“I just stayed in the gym 24/7. I know it might sound cliche, but it’s the honest truth. I stayed here every summer since I’ve been here and I’ve just been working,” the 21-year-old said. “The gym just became contagious. I was working on a whole bunch things and eventually it just worked out for me.”
Worked out is just an understatement. He transformed himself from a guy who some thought may have a chance at getting in the League after his senior season to a potential top-5 pick. Now sticking around campus to finish up his degree (he’ll graduate in three years), he’s been working out with IU graduate assistant Seth Cooper. More than just your average GA, Cooper was on staff when Mike Dunleavy was at the helm for the Clippers for a number of years. Coming back to the college game, Cooper returns with invaluable experience of what it takes to not just make it to the next level, but how to succeed.
Making the trek to Bloomington to watch Oladipo (along with teammate and potential draftee Christian Watford), we were immediately taken back by the passion that the fans had for the Hoosiers. Students were rocking IU gear everywhere, and while at breakfast, we heard more than a few parties already prognosticating next year’s Hoosiers squad. By the time we got to historic Assembly Hall, we were already prepared for what was going to be an epic workout.
Oladipo got things started off at IU’s practice court with a series of Mikan drills with both hands with Cooper drilling his arms with MMA pads. He showed no problem converting at a high clip and then moved forward to ball-handling drills with the MMA pads. Some two-ball dribbling and cone drills were added in, showcasing the improved handle that Vic has developed over his tenure with the Hoosiers, developing into a nasty straight line driver. Still, he’s not satisfied.
“I can definitely tighten up my handle and my jumpshot,” he said. “I have improved in every one of those areas, but I have a lot of room to get better too. I’m looking forward to doing that.”
Cooper then had the players move forward for a little 1, 2, 3 action. Having to score from the NBA three-point line, from mid-range off of the dribble, and then by making a creative move to finish at the rim, we got to see how Oladipo can score from the three main levels in basketball. Creating a ton of space with his first step, it’s clear that even though he may not have an Iverson-esque crossover, he’s going to be able to get his own shot off. He then took his game out to the NBA three-point line, shooting 30-50 from beyond the arc. Oladipo’s shot from 23-feet 9-inches is still a work in progress and needs to be speed up a bit, but the rate he is converting at is certainly going to surprise NBA teams.
“I’m just going to go in there and work my butt off. I’m going to work at a high level and do what got me here,” the Team Takeover AAU product said. “I think that I may surprise some people with how well I shoot the ball. Other than that, I’m just going to go in there and workout hard, like I’ve been doing.”
From the prom to the NBA Draft in three years, things have been a wild ride for Victor Oladipo. He always had the athleticism, but we wouldn’t be sitting in Bloomington watching him workout or interviewing him if it weren’t for the work he put in. The up-and-down ride to get to the League seems to be ending, but he’s right back in line for another one.
“It’s been absolutely crazy. It’s been a roller coaster…that’s a wonderful word for it. I just kept working,” Victor told us with a smile about the journey to where he is now. “You grow up having dreams of stuff like this and to actually be that much closer to seeing it come true is an amazing feeling. But, it just makes you work that much harder because you have more dreams to achieve now.”