We are still learning who Victor Oladipo is and what he can potentially bring to the Magic. The talk around Oladipo is the normal excitement that comes from a second overall pick. Everyone is really excited to see what he can do.
That comes starting Sunday in the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League when Oladipo dons a Magic "jersey" for the first time. Until then, we are left to talk about what he did at Indiana and try to project that forward.
To get a better sense of the journey Oladipo has taken to go from Indiana to Orlando, I reached out to the very good Indiana Hoosiers blog Crimson Quarry. In my other blog life, I cover Northwestern sports for Lake The Posts, and Crimson Quarry is a great resource for all things candy stripes and Indiana athletics. I chatted with Cal Steven Meyer to get his perspective on Oladipo's sudden rise and who he is as a player these last three years.
Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily: When Victor Oladipo arrived at Indiana, it did not seem like anyone thought of him as much more than a grinder. What did he do to raise his game to the level that he got to at Indiana and did that surprise you at all?
Cal Steven Meyer, Crimson Quarry: Victor was about as raw as it gets when he got to IU. Everyone knew he had the athletic ability, he just didn't have the basketball ability yet. Basically, to raise his game, he worked his behind off in the gym. He was the guy who brought that culture of hard work 365 days a year back to IU basketball.
It definitely surprised me when I found out how much he was working to get better, and I really started to see it pay off in the Kentucky game from 2011 (at Assembly Hall, not the NCAA Tourney game). I knew he could be something special, and all his hard work in the gym has really paid off. He won't stop working, and I'm confident that he will continue working hard to improve his game in the NBA.
OMD: As someone who watched Oladipo every game, what about his defense really stood out to you? Is everyone just waxing poetically or is there really something to Oladipo's defense that truly makes him stand out?
CQ: I've always been amazed at the intensity he brings on the defensive side. I can assure you that no one is waxing poetically or giving him undue credit; his defensive skills are legit. He was a shut down defender for the Hoosiers.
His hands really stood out for me. He averaged 2.2 steals per game last season, and he always seemed to find a way to poke the ball away or get his hands on it. He was always on the loose balls and just brought it every night on defense. Bill Simmons has said that worst case scenario, Oladipo ends up being a Tony Allen type shut down defender, and I agree with him.
OMD: What areas does Victor still need to work on in his game?
CQ: In terms of areas he needs to work on, I'd say his ball handling and shooting still need a little help. But the thing is, he's already improved so much in those areas of his game. Everyone said after his sophomore season that Vic needed to develop a 3-point shot to really raise his game. And he did just that; he shot around 20 percent from three his sophomore year, and improved to around 44 percent his junior season. He also hit the 3-point shot to put away Temple in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That is a pretty incredible improvement, and a testament to his hard work.
OMD: The Magic are toying around with experimenting with Oladipo at the point guard position. Does he have the capability to run the offense some? Do you see him as a guy who can take over games offensively?
CQ: It's interesting to me that the Magic are trying him at point guard, but if anyone can acquire the skills necessary to run the point, Vic can. So far, everything that he's needed to improve on and learn, he's done. So I see no reason why he can't eventually be a point guard in the NBA.
As far as taking over games offensively, I definitely think he's capable. He was one of the most efficient scorers in the NCAA last season, mostly because of his quickness and his ability to get to the rim. He's also a great finisher at the rim. Keep improving that jump shot, and I think he can be a real offensive force as well.
OMD: What is Victor Oladipo's legacy, if you will, at Indiana? Where does he stand in that program's celebrated history?
CQ: It's interesting that you ask that, because I actually wrote a piece on that very subject about a month ago. You can read it here if you want:. Anyway, Vic has quickly become one of my favorite Hoosiers ever, and I think my fellow Hoosier fans agree with me. The fact that he was such an unheralded recruit, worked his butt off, and made himself into a top 5 NBA draft pick is just an amazing story. And everyone loves a guy who brings the defensive intensity that he does.
I think Vic will be a guy that IU basketball players will try and emulate for years to come. Like I said in the article, I can't help but feel like his story is just beginning.
OMD: What do you see as Oladipo's ceiling? Are the Dwyane Wade comparisons at least somewhat legitimate?
CQ: Straight up, I think Vic can be one of the best players in the league, and an NBA All Star. I'm not really high on Dwayne Wade as a player, so that's a bad comparison for me. No doubt, I think Vic is already a better defensive player than Wade. I just hope that Vic doesn't become the arrogant, dirty, flopping cry baby that D Wade is (I'm a Pacers fan and dislike the Heat, if you couldn't tell).
OMD: What will Oladipo's experience with coach Tom Crean in rebuilding Indiana's program bring to a rebuilding Magic squad? Is such a comparison or experience applicable?
CQ: Vic had to work to help rebuild Indiana, so I definitely think he'll bring that hard work to the Magic. Other than that, I'm not sure how similar rebuilding a college program is to rebuilding an NBA team. There are a lot more egos involved in the NBA, and money is a factor, so that right there pretty much changes everything.
I don't think the money or fame will get to Victor; he seems like a pretty grounded kid to me. In any case, you've got a great basketball player and a great human being, so you should all be very excited as Magic fans.
OMD: Many thanks to Cal for taking the time on this holiday weekend to answer some questions about Victor Oladipo and gives us a taste of the kind of player we will be seeing wearing No. 5 in the future.