Kim Klement/USA TODAY
Victor Oladipo's basketball career started with doubt. Not from Oladipo, but from everyone who saw Oladipo.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel tells that story really well from Sunday's Orlando Sentinel:
When he was a 5-year-old kindergartner, Victor Oladipo had a best friend who played basketball. Little Victor set his heart on playing on his friend's team, the Purple Team.
That turned out to be a problem.
Victor was assigned to the Blue Team.
His mom sought an explanation from the Purple Team's coach. The coach said Victor just wasn't good enough to play on his team.
Joan Oladipo told her son the truth, and Victor remained on the Blue Team.
The Blue Team won the league title.
The doubters continued long after grade school and deep even into his college career. After going through high school at DeMatha in the Washington, D.C. area, VCU was the only "major" program that came calling until Tom Crean took a chance on him at his growing Indiana program.
It took Oladipo some time to find himself as a basketball player there too, but when he did he shot up the charts for scouts and became a top NBA prospect in his chosen draft class. He led Indiana to become one of the favorites to win the national championship last year.
Few saw Oladipo, learning a new position, to hit the ground running in the NBA even though he was selected with the second overall pick by a struggling team that would give him plenty of time to play. But that is exactly what Oladipo has done.
"It's no question, I've come a long way," Oladipo said. "Just as a person, not just as a player, and I've been in so many situations. I've had a lot of up and a lot of downs. Every game, I can control one thing: that's what I bring in my energy at both ends of the floor and just play hard no matter what. So just try to do that every game, whether if it's a good game or a bad game, just try to do it."
Oladipo has had plenty of "bad games" this year, but they are often matched or surpassed by the brilliant performances he has had in most of the games.
Considering where this organization is at, it is a lot easier to remember and get excited for the 30-point, 14-assists, nine-rebound performances in the double overtime win against New York than the 11-point, 4-for-13-shooting performance like Sunday against Toronto. Oladipo has had some fantastic games and they have far overshadowed some of his poorer performances.
Even while learning a new position and going through the typical trials and tribulations for a rookie, Oladipo has thrived and shown that he will make it in the NBA.
"With Victor you can almost sense when he has it going," Jameer Nelson said. "His motor is probably one of the best motors out there. He has a motor that is unbelievable, meaning he is going to keep going, keep coming at you, He's going to keep you on your heels and he is on his toes, almost like a boxer. He does a great job for us bringing energy no matter what group he's in or who is on the court with him."
That drive Nelson described is one of the reasons Oladipo was drafted where he was and why he has silenced so many of his doubters.
Nelson, who has become something of a mentor to Oladipo, said Oladipos drive and motor set him apart, but so does his ability simply to learn and listen. Nelson said if he continues to learn, he has the capability to be a great player in this league. Nelson described Oladipo as a "gym rat." There may not be a higher compliment at this stage of Oladipo's career.
Oladipo still has a lot of room to grow. He needs to continue developing his ability to finish at the rim, dribble and attack off his left hand and become a better shooter. He is averaging 13.8 points per game, 41.0 percent shooting, 31.1 percent 3-point shooting, 4.1 assists per game and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Again, his good games have everyone buzzing about what Oladipo could be. And it is clear Oladipo is not done growing.
"He is special," Pacers forward Paul George said after Oladipo dropped 23 points on the Pacers at Amway Center. "You are going to get nights like this from him. The more that he is going to be in this league, there is going to be much more consistent nights like this. He has a high motor and I am a fan of his game. He is one of those guys that plays on both ends of the ball. Those are rare guys in this league."
Rare indeed, and the sky seems to be the limit for him.