Oladipo ‘right at home’ in return to Bloomington

  • 08/26/2013 9:11 am in

082613chxhcvAs Victor Oladipo entered the Assembly Hall media room Saturday morning for a scheduled press conference, it was like he had never left the Indiana basketball program to pursue an NBA career.

That is, until he found Indiana coach Tom Crean sitting in his typical spot, the middle of three chairs at a table overlooking the media.

“I usually sit in the middle, but it’s cool,” Oladipo said.

Oladipo’s seat wasn’t the only unfamiliar part when he spoke. This time, he was doing it as a former Hoosier and host of the Tom Crean Basketball ProCamp, along with D.J. White.

And in the four months since he had last spoken at Assembly Hall when he announced he was leaving Bloomington for the chance at a professional career, he has gone from being a college junior to a member of the Orlando Magic, selected No. 2 overall in June’s NBA draft.

“It’s kind of been a whirlwind,” Oladipo said. “They tell you that before it happens, but when you’re actually in it, it’s like ‘Whoa, they weren’t lying.'”

For Oladipo to be back in Bloomington meant it felt like business as usual for the Indiana basketball program, according to Crean. Having arrived earlier in the week, Oladipo trained in Cook Hall, participated in pick-up games and interacted with current players and recruits.

“It was really truly like he had never left. And I figured it would be like that, but then I realized when I could hear him all the way from my office through all kinds of walls and doors with him downstairs, I knew he was truly back home,” Crean said. “And then you realize how much you missed that energy and charisma.”

That energy and charisma has taken Oladipo to new heights since graduating a year early in May.

First there was draft day, where Oladipo was picked second overall, the highest for an IU player since Isiah Thomas went in the same slot in 1981. He then dominated the Orlando NBA Summer League at a new position — point guard — while averaging 19 points, 5 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.

And to top it off, before the season even has started, ESPN’s Chad Ford projected Oladipo to be the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year.

“But I feel like there’s so much more I can do,” Oladipo said. “I haven’t even reached the pinnacle of how good I can be, so I’ve just been trying to stay in the gym, trying to stay on my game and trying to think the game, because it’s no boys allowed. There’s no days off, so I’ve got to prepare myself not only physically, but mentally, as well.”

Oladipo knows, though, that he isn’t going through the journey alone. And he doesn’t have to look far to find someone sharing the same experience. He and former teammate Cody Zeller, the No. 4 overall selection by the Charlotte Bobcats, stay in touch “pretty much every day,” and the two always talk about their experiences, Oladipo said.

He also has White for support, an NBA veteran who played for the Boston Celtics last season. White gave some advice to Oladipo on Saturday, saying he should “be ready for his rookie dues.”

“Main thing is just listen to the veterans and just know that every night, somebody’s coming at you,” White said. “Everybody, from 1 to 15 on the roster, is there for a reason. Just bring it every night and take care of your body. He’s a smart kid. He’ll be fine.”

As Saturday’s press conference went on, Crean left early to resume camp activities. As he stood, he told Oladipo to “Take your middle seat.”

This time, Oladipo declined.

While he won’t be staying in Bloomington as classes begin on Monday, Oladipo knows this won’t be his last time back. On Oct. 29, his Orlando Magic will play their regular season opener in Indianapolis against the Pacers. “I can only imagine how that’s going to be when I check into the game. That’s going to be surreal,” Oladipo said.

And though it might not happen again for some time, Crean can expect to hear Oladipo’s voice down the hall in the future.

“That’s just because I’m right at home. It’s what I’m used to and it’s what I’m comfortable with,” Oladipo said. “Like I’ve always been saying, I’ll always be a Hoosier.”

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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  • inLinE6

    Man, love this dude.

  • I get chills reading about Oladipo. Much love to this Hoosier. Can’t wait to start collecting his rookie cards!

  • iudawg

    Class act. Great person to represent the program. The Magic are now my second favorite team in the NBA.

  • Oldguyy

    I’m guessing there will be a sellout at Bankers Life Fieldhouse October 29th.

  • IUMIKE1

    Vo has had many accomplishments already in his young life but one of the biggest ones, if THE biggest one, is how humble he has stayed. That particular accomplishment will serve him well in his NBA journey. Started to say, ” what I wouldn’t give for a team full of VOs “, but then realized that there will always be only one VO. And VO, if you’re reading this, God speed young man.

    What a great guy. What great accomplishments & how great it is that a man such as him is on the receiving end of all those great things.

    That’s right, I used the word great that many times and IMHO it’s justified.

  • PV Mike

    I hope he got on the floor and smoked some recruits or incoming freshmen to let them know how far they have yet to go to reach the next level.

  • Kris

    “Great” comment

  • Karl Schaefer

    Not to mention, he was also back home on the dance floor at sports on Thursday night, this time with an NBA paycheck on the way.

  • esapata

    I’m so glad he spent time around recruits. He’s the best ambassador that Crean has for the program… well maybe an argument could be made for Hulls, but Oladipo’s journey from unknown high schooler to 2nd pick will catch a recruit’s attention.

  • Oldfan

    Gosh he seems like he’s aged the past 4 months.

  • Rie

    Any know how the recruiting went over the weekend?

  • Jeremy Pinnell

    His playing with the freshmen coming in with a few recruits sends a message to those guys saying, “You guys have a long way to go just like I did when I was in your position.” You can’t find a better role model for a young man than VO. He is the only reason to watch any Magic games.

  • Lil Hoosier

    Saw him in the Wright food court and talked to him and Derek Elston. Great first week at IU!

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    ESPN has “Instant Classics”. IU has “Instant Legends”.

  • r

    I went to this link expecting to read how Exum made the choice of NBA, but then I read the headline “Wildcats” and about pUKed!

  • CrimsonandCreamFraiche

    That’s awesome and I hate you. Just kidding. That’s is really cool though. I would love to run into Victor in a situation that wasn’t forced and just shoot the stuff with him. Same goes for Elston and any Hoosier b-ball player that is a quality person(which is most of them).

  • CrimsonandCreamFraiche

    *That is

  • Mark Coppock

    On a completely different note, since you used the words “run into”, let me tell a little story. It goes back to the NCAA tournament in 1987, one day during the week when the team was back in town in between venues (can’t remember the previous game, might have been the week before the Final Four). I had picked up some breadsticks at a (then) well-known little pizza place (might still be there for all I know) that night, and was starting to backup. I _almost_ didn’t look again, but at the last second glanced in my rearview mirror and saw some legs and slammed on my brakes. Turns out it was Dean Garrett. I had nightmares of being the person to knock Dean out of action during the tourney, and of subsequently being run out of the state on a rail (if I was lucky).