Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Q&A: Victor Oladipo on Dwyane Wade comparisons, drawing inspiration from deaf sister

Just past the halfway mark of Victor Oladipo's rookie season, he reflected on what's brought him here. He also talked about Dwyane Wade, college teammate Cody Zeller and his inspiring sister.

TORONTO -- Victor Oladipo is not in Indiana anymore. This time last year, he had lost two games since the season started, starring for the a team that would end up with a No. 1 seed come NCAA Tournament time. Now the Orlando Magic guard is trying to learn to the league, improve his game and deal with losing.

"It's a whole different lifestyle," Oladipo said, noting that there are no easy nights in the NBA.

Individually, the former Hoosier has been up and down. Oladipo is clearly one of the league's best rookies and is arguably the surest bet to succeed, but he isn't the ROY frontrunner he was before the season started. January's been his best month, as he's averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 steals, shooting 42.9 percent from the floor.

Oladipo's many highlights include nasty dunks and monstrous blocks, which he said can swing momentum for his team. Still, he's figuring out how to be a playmaker at this level, and he's trying to find his shots where he feels most comfortable on the court. He recorded a 26-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in early December, but shot 2-for-11 in a game later that week.

There will be more huge games and growing pains. Oladipo called the fact he'll be competing in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend a blessing, but added that he wants to build on it so he can play in the Sunday main event.

"I always watch film after games and take note of how teams guard me so I can be better prepared," he said. "Even then, the next time you play ‘em, they might do something totally different."

On a team level, it's been tougher. The Magic have lost 15 of their last 17 games, the vast majority by double digits. Only the Milwaukee Bucks have a worse record. It's been quite the adjustment.

In a Q&A, Oladipo spoke with SB Nation about where he is, where he came from and some of the things he's done along the way:

You played high school ball in a place with a rich, rich basketball history. What was it like there?

Oh, it's unreal. Just the area I'm from, just the county I'm from. [Prince George's] County, the players that we have in this league, it's tremendous. From the Kevin Durants to the Jeff Greens to the Ty Lawsons to the Roy Hibberts, it's just one county. That area for basketball is insane. We live and breathe it. And then coming from DeMatha, we have Danny Ferry and Adrian Dantley, big-time players like that coming from that one school. It was just crazy. Every game was like a Super Bowl, really. It was an amazing experience.

[Duke point guard] Quinn Cook was kind of the star when you were a freshman, right?

He was. That's my little brother. He was a great player there. He led us in scoring. He was our leader. He was our go-to guy.


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Do you think the fact that you weren't the highly touted guy might have helped or fueled you?

I think in a way. It definitely kept me humble. It definitely kept me with a chip on my shoulder that I still have today.

You've said your freshman year in college was one of your hardest years of your life because of all the losing. Not saying this is the same, but --

It's very similar.

Yeah? Well, you got used to winning again after that year, how do you deal with this again?

You've just gotta keep pushing, man. Just keep getting better. Days like this won't continue to keep piling up. Losses won't continue to keep piling up year after year after year. I'm just gonna keep getting better and keep working on my game and keep getting better in games and taking full advantage of every game and keep playing hard and eventually it will click.

Are you hard on yourself when you watch film?

I've always been, I think, my biggest critic because I expect so much of myself. But at the same time, at this level, it's just gotta click. It takes time, it's a process. Yeah, I am hard on myself. But at the same time I just can't let my confidence waver. I've gotta continue to keep playing with confidence.

At every level you've exceeded expectations. Was it weird or different this year when you were the No. 2 pick and you had expectations, people were picking you for Rookie of the Year?

I have higher expectations than those guys do. I have expectations of greatness. Being the No. 2 pick, being Rookie of the Year, that's cool, but at the end of the day I want to be great. Those expectations are pretty high and I have even higher ones of myself.


Photo credit: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images

You came into the league with Cody Zeller. Are you keeping up with how he's doing?

Oh, man, I talk to Cody like once every two days. Yeah, I talk to him a lot. It's kind of hard not to talk to somebody who's basically having the same experiences you are. Someone you know, you basically grew up with in college. We've become even closer than we were in college just because we know each other and we're growing through the experiences together. I know the potential he has. We're just going to continue to keep getting better, continue to keep looking for each other. The sky is the limit for both of us.

Lots of people made the Dwyane Wade comparison. You had the same college coach, you said you met him a couple of times. How much were you actually influenced by him, how much did coach [Tom] Crean talk to you about him?

When didn't Coach Crean talk about him? [laughs]

Nah, I'm just playing. He definitely talked about him [Wade] a lot. We definitely always had inside colleges battles, like we always used to do my college deflections or statistics and stuff versus his. We always used to compete, Coach Crean used to always bring it up. It was kind of hard not to watch him and try to take things from his game and add 'em to mine. We're both different in ways, but we both have similarities, so I'm just gonna try to be the best Victor Oladipo possible.

You got to go spend some time with Kevin Durant at his camp last summer, what was it like to converse with him on that level?

It was cool, man. He's a really cool guy, he's got a great spirit. Just for him to be willing to give me advice was kind of amazing, an amazing feeling. I really appreciate him for doing that. He's playing phenomenal right now, so when he comes to Orlando we're definitely going to have to do a great job of stopping him. Or slowing him down, at least.

Everyone's seen your duet with Regis. What was Regis like?

He's probably one of the funniest people I've ever met in my entire life. The way he acts on TV is how he acts in regular life, to regular people. It's amazing. He doesn't change for anybody.

How has your sister, Kendra, inspired you?

She's just a different story. For her, she wasn't born deaf. In the second grade she actually became deaf and she had to change her whole lifestyle. Her whole lifestyle was completely switched around. She had to go through many troubles and many trials and tribulations just so she could live a comfortable life. For me, I definitely look up to her. It's kind of hard not to. She's standing right there, she's with me all the time, I'm going home and I'm seeing her. I'm seeing her when I wake up, I'm seeing her all weekend, I'm seeing her struggle.

So when I'm down and stuff like that, when I'm hurt basically and I'm struggling and kind of depressed a little bit, I always hit her up and see how she's doing and she always tells me how she's proud of me and stuff like that. It kind of makes me feel good and makes me come down to earth and realize that, shoot, it's not 10 times as bad as how she had to change her life. So I've just gotta continue to keep working hard, man, and she knows how hard I work and she's definitely supporting me.

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This article originally appeared on SBNation.

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