Victor Oladipo’s high school basketball team at DeMatha was so loaded with college prospects his junior year that he voluntarily chose to come off the bench for the betterment of the team. Oladipo worked his way up the ranks to earn a college scholarship to Indiana, where he improved so much in his three seasons that he is now considered a top five prospect in Thursday’s NBA draft.
Although Oladipo has no control over which team chooses him, the Upper Marlboro native made it clear to the Wizards that he had no desire to begin his career with a team that already has its back court set with point guard John Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal. Oladipo declined the Wizards’ requests for a workout at Verizon Center but offered them a chance to watch him run through drills in Bowie. The Wizards didn’t bother to visit as Minnesota and New Orleans had done.
Having already proven his selflessness in high school, the 6-foot-5 Oladipo is seeking the best chance to flourish as a professional and didn’t believe that the opportunity would come in Washington. And those close to Oladipo never felt that the Wizards would seriously consider taking him third overall when they had other needs.
“I felt like I should go where I fit best and help me maximize my basketball talent. Just go somewhere where I feel I can fit best and help impact winning,” Oladipo said, explaining his decision to bypass a workout for Washington. “I feel like [the Wizards] already have a back court set. They have a great program already. I just feel like I wouldn’t fit. Me and my agent [Raymond Brothers] sat down and we felt it was best not to go there. But again, they have a great program. They have great players — Brad and John. And they are going to have a great player to pick from this draft. They are going to have a great program and they are definitely going to start winning, because they have a young great team.”
Oladipo has been one of the high risers in this draft, an incredible jump that rivals his 42-inch vertical leap. After entering last season as a possible late first-rounder, Oladipo averaged 13.7 points on 61.4 percent shooting and was named national co-defensive player of the year. He has visited Cleveland, Orlando and Phoenix, teams picking first, second and fifth, respectively, and will likely go ahead of Indiana teammate Cody Zeller, who entered the season as a favorite to go first overall.
“I’ve just been working hard, and people have been noticing it,” Oladipo said. “I’m just going to continue growing as a player and as a person, so I can reach my peak, reach the highest level of basketball possible. I feel like right now, I’m nowhere near that. So, yeah, it’s pretty cool thriving; at the same time, though, it’s just the beginning. Getting drafted is just where it starts. There are way more things from there that you have to accomplish, that I’m looking forward to doing.”
Oladipo believes that his work ethic separates him from the other draft prospects and he remains in awe of being so close to shaking hands with NBA commissioner David Stern. “You’re anxious, definitely butterflies,” he said. “But, hard work pays off. I set some more goals for myself, and I know what I have to do in order to achieve those goals, and that’s just working hard.”
When Oladipo was at DeMatha, he was the underdog on a team that featured Quinn Cook (Duke), Jerami Grant (Syracuse), Jerian Grant (Notre Dame), James Robinson (Pittsburgh) and Mikael Hopkins (Georgetown). Now, he is expected to be the first of that crew to get drafted.
“I would’ve probably been the last person that you’d think would be in the position I’m in today,” Oladipo said. “It’s just a blessing. I’ve got to continue to keep working hard and that’s why I’m here.”
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— Mike Wise: Wizards have one clear choice.