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The Evolution of Victor Oladipo

The Orlando Magic take a full timeout with just over six seconds on the clock. In the game, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton and the impressive future NBA All-Star, Victor Oladipo. Ball in. Oladipo receives it at the top of the key, guarded by an actual All-Star in Jimmy Butler. The clock ticks down to five. Oladipo crosses. Four. He takes Butler on the left, Oladipo’s weak hand. Three. Elevating, Oladipo avoids both Butler, flying in from the side, and Joakim Noah, who came to protect the rim. Two. Vic switches the ball to his right hand. Layup good with a second-and-a-half to spare. After a turnover, the Magic win, all thanks to Victor Oladipo:

From the moment he stepped on campus in Bloomington, Indiana, he was determined to succeed. Unranked in high school, he quickly became the diamond in the rough Tom Crean was searching for out of DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Maryland. The Catholic school that produced Oladipo has produced some major names in the past from multiple sports, but basketball is where the noise has mostly been made. From Adrian Dantley in 1974 to Danny Ferry in 1985 to Victor Oladipo in 2010, it’s hard to argue for another high school that has sent more players to the NBA. Even now, Notre Dame stud and future NBA player Jerian Grant sings praises of DeMatha and the type of player that comes out of there. Raw, athletic, but willing to work. Oladipo was exactly that.

Vic showed flashes of promise his freshman year at IU, playing in all 32 games but starting just five as the Hoosiers finished with a 12-20 record at the bottom of the Big Ten. His sophomore year he showed a marked improvement, averaging around 11 points and five boards while generating some buzz about his defensive work and all-around hustle. It helped, of course, to beat the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats on a buzzer-beater at Assembly Hall, but still. Oladipo didn’t actually launch the shot that beat UK. No, that was Christian Watford, and Indiana fans won’t ever let you forget it. But Oladipo certainly had an impact on the game, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds before the madness ensued on Kirkwood Avenue.

Oladipo reached his peak his junior year:

Oladipo averaged almost 14 points, six boards, two assists, and two steals on the year, one of only two players from a major conference to do so that year. Though Indiana didn’t win a national title that year, much to the chagrin of the fans, Oladipo earned numerous postseason honors, including a First Team All-American honor, the National Co-Defensive Player of the Year, and the Sporting News Player of the Year. In fact, if it wasn’t for Trey Burke, Oladipo would have likely made a season sweep of the awards.

After some deliberation, Oladipo felt it best to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA, and why not? His draft stock was never going to be higher, his game was constantly developing, and he was mature enough to make the leap, even if his constant singing (yes, singing), dancing and all-around goofball nature made you feel otherwise.

The Orlando Magic had the No. 2 pick that year, and the franchise had plenty of options to choose from – Cody Zeller, Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo – to name a few. Nevertheless, the franchise took their chances on the swinging swaggerhound from Silver Spring, Maryland. Oladipo celebrated with his mother, sister, agent and father, significant only because of the relationship he holds with his father. Disciplined. Chris Oladipo didn’t make it to a lot of Victor’s games, and even if he did, he often wouldn’t tell anyone he was there. He was always more interested in Victor getting a Harvard education or traveling to China. There’s always a balance with Chris.

With no offense to his father, the high-flying entertainer in Oladipo preferred the NBA.

His rookie year was not much different from his first couple of years at IU, full of potential. He first showed the league what he could do in the No. 5 jersey in December when he posted a triple-double (26/10/10) on Rookie of the Year rival candidate Carter-Williams. Remarkably, the Syracuse grad recorded a triple-double of his own, but that shouldn’t and doesn’t take away from the performance of Oladipo. The Hoosier grad was invited to participate in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge as well as the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, and would go on to finish second in the Rookie of the Year vote behind Carter-Williams.

Fast-forward to this year. October was rough for Oladipo; out indefinitely after suffering a facial fracture in practice. He returned almost a month later, full mask, making his season debut against the Milwaukee Bucks. Oladipo put in the work to return to an event at the All-Star game, this time going head-to-head with eventual champion Zach LaVine in a thrilling display of the hops, and pipes, of Oladipo:

And like his career, his numbers are steadily on the up and up. Vic has gone from averaging 13.8 points to 17.9 points, all while upping his FG% from 41.9 percent -> 43.6 percent. He’s up to 33.6 percent on 3PA from 32.7 percent, and has improved his eFG% from 45.8 percent to 47.4 percent. To compare, that first number is better than even Lebron posted his rookie year. Not to say that Oladipo’s career will have a similar arc as Lebron’s, but it’s worth noting.

Other areas of his game are immeasurable. For example, his confidence handling the ball and getting to the rim is starting to remind folks of the explosiveness he showed his junior year at Indiana. All that’s left is the final jump between being a starting guard in the league to being an All-Star starting guard in the league:

Wednesday night, Oladipo finishes his second year in the pros in a game against the Nets that has no real implications for Orlando, but has very real playoff implications for Brooklyn. Two years in with no end in sight, Oladipo’s career stays on the rise.

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