Capital Classic

Victor Oladipo has had an incredible career; he just wishes his father would have seen it

Victor Oladipo, who will play at Indiana next year, led DeMatha to a 32-4 record, the WCAC championship and the City Title.
Victor Oladipo, who will play at Indiana next year, led DeMatha to a 32-4 record, the WCAC championship and the City Title. (Joel Richardson For The Washington Post)
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By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Victor Oladipo is well-liked by his peers and coaches. He is quick with a joke and seems to wear a perpetual smile. And at 6-foot-4, he is considered one of the area's finest athletes in years, an All-Met forward bound for Indiana who helped DeMatha finish this season ranked No. 1.

How good an athlete is Oladipo? He won a $5 bet from a classmate last year by touching the top of the white square on the backboard during the school day.

Not in hightops, but in his leather dress shoes.

But when it comes to dealing with his father, that easygoing manner tends to evaporate. It was Chris Oladipo who -- during an important time in college recruiting process -- wanted to send his son to China for a full summer to study martial arts and improve his self discipline. Then, when top college programs came calling, Chris Oladipo seemed most interested in sending his son to Harvard or Maryland.

While the two spend plenty of time together on the drive from the family's Upper Marlboro home to DeMatha each day, they rarely talk. And, as Oladipo prepares to play in the Capital Classic all-star game at American University's Bender Arena on Thursday, he not even sure his father will be there. He said Chris Oladipo has never seen him play.

"I would love for him to want to see me play," Victor said. "I want to show him how good I've become. . . . Sometimes I sit down and wonder why he doesn't come, why he doesn't want to see me play, but I guess it's hard to explain."

Told this, Chris Oladipo revealed a secret, one he has not shared with Victor: He has been to a few games, including this year's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament championship victory over rival Gonzaga.

"He doesn't know, though . . . I don't make myself as obvious as others do," Chris Oladipo said. "I was a son, I knew when my father was in the audience. There is that additional effort, more mentally. I think the game sometimes can be very brutal. . . . Nobody knows I'm there, it's okay."

It came as news to Joan Oladipo, Victor's mother and a vocal presence in the bleachers: "There was one time we were talking about it and I mentioned, 'Your son played very well today,' and he said, 'I was there.' "

Whether he knew his father was watching or not, Victor Oladipo earned a reputation for playing hard and doing the dirty work while also delivering the crowd-pleasing, high-flying dunks.

DeMatha Coach Mike Jones was hardly surprised. He enjoys telling a story about when Oladipo had a broken foot during the summer before his sophomore year but insisted on coming to all of the team's workouts and summer league games. Not wanting to be forgotten by the coaching staff, Oladipo ran the scoreboard during practice and continually walked around the gym picking up trash and keeping things in order.

"These guys cringe when we tell them to do extra stuff, some of our guys can be a little spoiled," Jones said. "Victor was a breath of fresh air. You didn't have to ask him to do stuff. If you did, you knew it was going to get done."

Oladipo made the varsity as a sophomore and opponents took notice of his leaping ability. But as he prepared for the following summer -- when many recruiting decisions are made, as colleges often decide which players to pursue and players in turn narrow their choices -- Chris Oladipo had something else in mind. While most of the nation's top players traverse the country playing tournaments in order to be seen by as many colleges as possible, Chris Oladipo wanted Victor to go to China.

"It is something I want him to do [still], I have not given up," said Chris Oladipo, who was born in Nigeria and first came to the United States more than 25 years ago. His wife moved here from Nigeria in 1986. "Both your mind and your body must be sound. This is [about] self control, the ability to take and not react, but react when it is necessary. . . . In life, there must always be a fallback position. He needed to not concentrate on basketball alone. Basketball is okay to the extent that you have a balanced life, with education and games."

When dozens of colleges started recruiting Victor, Chris made clear his preferences. Otherwise, he stayed out of the process.

"When Maryland started recruiting me, I didn't even tell him," Victor said. "It was hard to tell him I wanted to go to Indiana because I knew how bad he wanted me to go to Maryland or Harvard. Eventually, I told him. I guess he was happy with it. My mom was loving it."

This past season, Oladipo averaged 11.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks. He helped the Stags DeMatha to a 32-4 record, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title and the City Title. But he yearned for Chris to be involved.

"It really did bother him," Joan Oladipo said. "He would tell you he didn't care, but he would have liked to see his father like some of his teammates. What can you do about that? His father would take him to practice or pick him up. He probably would have liked to have seen him more involved."

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