These days, Victor Oladipo is one of the rising stars of the up-and-coming Orlando Magic, but not too long ago he was just a basketball-obsessed Maryland kid with nothing but hoop dreams and a crazy work ethic. The now-22-year-old played high school ball at DeMatha Catholic, practicing at the facility’s gym at 6 a.m. every day to hone his skills, which would eventually become good enough to get him to Indiana University—and, from there, the big league. Here, he recalls his introduction to the game.
SLAM: Do you remember how you initially fell in love with basketball?
Victor Oladipo: It just feels like I pretty much loved the game of basketball my whole life. I remember distinctively my big sister Kristine, she was in seventh or eighth grade and she used to play basketball—I remember going to the games and just kinda falling in love with the game and the way it was played. But for as long as I can remember, since I was like 5, that’s all I wanted to do. It became an addiction.
SLAM: What are some of the earliest courts you played on?
VO: The first time I played, I was on my grade school court at St. Jerome’s. They had lowered baskets and everything. I was on the light-blue team.
SLAM: Were you any good when you first got out there, or did it take you a while to adapt?
VO: I was always athletic, so I could hop around people and make a lay-up, but I didn’t have as many skills as everybody else. When I was younger, there were some kids who had been playing for years, so let’s just say it was a slow start for me [laughs]. I had to work really hard.
SLAM: When did you realize how good you were?
VO: That would have to be my last year in college. My last year, when we were No. 1 in the country, I think the game that really taught me that I could play was when we played Michigan State, at Michigan State. Magic Johnson and Dickie V were calling the game, and I just sprained my ankle the game before, but I came out and played really well. That helped my confidence tremendously. It was big. That was like my turning point.
SLAM: Is there anyone specifically that you leaned on as you were developing as a player?
VO: When I was in high school, one of my all-time favorite coaches, his name is Coach [Dave] Adkins [now a player development coach for the Wizards—Ed.]. Before I met him I was a hard worker, but he taught me how to work hard. Does that make sense? He taught me how to work. He’s the one that changed my form and everything like that. He’s the one who introduced me to coming to the gym early, staying late. He had a lot to do with my success, a lot to do with my hard work and my work ethic. He was big in my life, especially in high school. He saw how hungry I was and how I wanted to get better all the time, and he kinda was drawn to that. Definitely helped me out.
SLAM: Do you remember your first basketball?
VO: Wow. I don’t really remember my first ball, but I think I stole it [laughs]. I think I might’ve stole it from my school gym. But that’s vague—I don’t really remember my first basketball, though I used to always dribble in the hallways and get in trouble in grade school. They used to call me Pistol Pete—the teachers called me Pistol Pete because I always used to have a ball in my hands. I used to dribble in the hallways and get in trouble. If I ain’t stop they were going to get me in trouble and stuff like that, so eventually it had to die down a little bit. But I always had a ball in my hand. If you go [to my school] and talk to them about me now, that’s all they remember about me. Every time I go back to my grade school, they’re like, I remember when you used to dribble that ball around here.
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Adam Figman is a Senior Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @afigman.