Indiana’s Victor Oladipo: ‘I’m just abnormal’


I worked hard for this! (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

By the time Indiana junior and former DeMatha standout Victor Oladipo arrived at the Harrison Street Athletics Facility in Chicago for the NBA draft combine, scouts and talent evaluators had known so much about the first team all-American that the only real question was his actual height. Oladipo measured in at 6 feet 4¼ in shoes but he disputed the results.

“If you round that to the nearest tenth, that’s 6-5,” Oladipo said with a laugh.

Oladipo is also seeking that edge and doing whatever it takes to separate himself from the pack. Noted for his notorious drive, Oladipo famously used his key card at the gym at Indiana so much for workouts that it stopped working and forced him to get a replacement. He would go to the gym for late-night training sessions – after watching West Coast NBA games conclude after midnight.

“I’m just abnormal,” said Oladipo, who also took 19 credit hours his final semester in order to graduate in three years. “I’m a weird dude. I’m not going to lie to you.”

Oladipo dazzled college basketball with his highlight plays, including a 360-degree dunk against Illinois in the Big Ten tournament. He again showcased his athleticism at the combine in Chicago, where he had the second-best maximum vertical leap at 42 inches (Miami’s Shane Larkin jumped 44 inches).

But arguably no draft prospect made a more significant climb in his time in college, from fringe prospect after last season to potential top 10 pick on June 27. Oladipo, 21, believes that he hasn’t come close to reaching his peak as a player after improving each season at Indiana.

“I feel like I have another level every year that I start a new season of basketball. If I continue to keep growing, and make everything consistent, I’m going to get better and better each year. That’s what I feel like I’ll be able to do,” Oladipo said. “Whoever picks me, I’m going to bring a high level impact. I feel like I’m going to be one of the best players I can be. A really solid player in the league, if not better.”

The long-armed Oladipo – he has a 6-9 ¼ wing span – entered his junior season with a reputation for being a staunch defender, but he became more consistent on that end of the floor while becoming a more reliable shooter.

“I feel in order to be great, I have to be able to impact the ball on both ends of the floor,” Oladipo said, while adding that what distinguishes him from other perimeter prospects is “my willingness to get stops and play defense. I’m not going to forget that, because that’s what got me to this point.”

Oladipo helped Indiana improve from being a team that won 12 games his freshman year to one that made two Sweet 16 appearances and entered the this past NCAA tournament ranked No. 1 overall. He ranked second on the team in scoring (13.6 points), tied for second in rebounds (6.3) and was named Big 10 defensive player of the year. The scouting department of one NBA team refers to Oladipo as “Home Dipo” for his versatility and ability to fix up any predicament.

But Oladipo wouldn’t be considered a lottery pick if he hadn’t worked on his jump shot. Oladipo shot 44.1 percent (30 of 68) from beyond the three-point line after connecting on just 28.1 percent from long distance (18 of 64) in his first two seasons with the Hoosiers. “My first two years, whenever I missed a shot, I would be, ‘Oh, no need to shoot the next one, because the next one isn’t going in either,’ ” he said. “This year, I was like, so what? If I miss it. I’m going to shoot with the same confidence. If I miss it’s rare. Like if I miss, ‘Oh, I know the next one is going in.’ I felt like a shooter.”

The Wizards interviewed Oladipo on the first night teams were allowed to speak to prospects this week, which was a thrill for the Upper Marlboro native. “It was fun,” Oladipo said. “Those guys know pretty much everything about you. I mean, everybody does, but they’re right in the back yard. Growing up watching the Wizards, so it was fun being in that room and talking to them and being from the area.”

Oladipo wasn’t exactly sure how he would fit if the Wizards were to draft him. “It would be interesting because they already have John Wall and Bradley Beal,” he said, “but I feel like if I land there, I can make an impact in whatever area they want to, and just help the team win.”

Having drawn comparisons to Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade, Oladipo is still amazed that he will be an NBA player in another six weeks. “Sometimes I wake up at night or early in the morning, like wow. I’m going to be in the NBA. I’ve been dreaming about this all my life,” he said. “I’m just trying to be the best Victor Oladipo possible and I feel my game is a little different from all those guys that are playing in the league right now.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · May 17, 2013