The summer of 2014 has been a huge one for Magic guard Victor Oladipo. After finishing second in Rookie Of The Year voting, the Indiana product was selected to the US Select Team, and spent the last week in Las Vegas playing with some of the leagues best. While being on the Select Team doesn’t mean he’ll be on the senior team, it could bode well for the future. Jerry Colangelo, the Managing Director of USA Basketball’s National Team had this to say of the select team, “USA Basketball’s Select Teams are critical for getting some of the game’s brightest and most promising young players experience at the USA National Team level, and getting them into our pipeline.” It’s easy to see what a great honor it is to be affiliated with USA basketball, but the fact that the select team is treated as a pipeline for players shows what guys like Colangelo, along with Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Assistant Coaches Jim Boeheim and Tom Thibodeau think of Oladipo.
While the final roster isn’t set in stone, we do know Oladipo will not make the final cut as he and fellow Magic teammate Tobias Harris returned home prior to the teams scrimmage on Friday night. Oladipo had his work cut out for him, as he was going up against the likes of Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, James Harden, and John Wall to name a few. The competition was obviously fierce with that star-studded list of athletes all vying for spots, but knowing Oladipo, he certainly didn’t back down without a fight. During the last World Cup, Coach K made room for five guards, and took advantage of players’ versatility, something that Oladipo would’ve been able to add to the roster.
Oladipo is a menace on the defensive end, and his ability to push players could be something that helped him stand out as well. Since he returned home prior to Friday night’s scrimmage, the odds that he makes the team are almost zero, barring a rash of injuries to some of the team’s important guards.
His competitive spirit and notorious work ethic are paying dividends, as he faced off against the league’s best. His hard-nosed style of play is exactly what Coach K loves in his backcourt, and after excelling in the Los Vegas practices, even the superstars he was playing against were praising his abilities. What Oladipo was able to accomplish in just a few practices with the team did not go unnoticed, as a few of the leagues best raved about his performance. Below, you can see what Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant had to say about the Magic’s young standout.
“He’s a great player already. I love how he plays and he plays with so much confidence. He totally deserves to be up here (with team USA) and I’m already a big fan of his. I love how he takes the game so serious.” “I’m here for him if he ever needs me,’’ Rose said after hearing that Oladipo hopes to pick his brain during his time with USA Basketball. “I know how serious he takes it. He’s such a talent with his size, what he can do on the floor and how he reads opponents, especially defensively. He’s a big-time talent.”
“There’s so much happening for Vic in such a short period of time and I’m really excited for him. I’m so happy that he’s getting this opportunity because he is absolutely like a sponge and he’s soaking in everything. As a fellow Maryland and D.C. native I’m happy he’s doing well and I’m pulling for him.’’
These are some very strong words from a couple of the NBA’s strongest talents. It begs the question, is Oladipo poised for a big season? His showing with the national team would certainly suggest so. We are all aware of his work ethic and mentality, pair that with an entire season under his belt and you could make an argument that Oladipo is ready for a break-out year.
The offseason saw a drastic overhaul in Orlando, shipping out the two veteran leaders, and bringing three rookies on board. Oladipo not only has more responsibility resting on his shoulders on the court, but the leadership role has completely transferred over to him as well.
Look for the 22-year-old to be the focal point of the team both offensively and defensively. He will be a vocal leader, but also one that leads by example. We saw a glimpse of this in summer league play and if that was any indication, then Oladipo is definitely ready and willing to accept the challenge. Just add to that his experience with the NBA’s top competitors and the game’s brightest coaching minds and Oladipo is sure to return a wealth of knowledge to his young squad.
Some may argue that Oladipo did not show enough to shoulder the offensive load due to his inefficient outside shooting and turnover numbers. The fact of the matter is that the youngster was thrown into the fire, largely manning a position he has never played before. It was sure to be a bumpy ride, but one thing you never saw him do was hang his head or lose confidence. Oladipo’s composure was impressive, and you better believe he will come back with his sights set on winning, something this organization has been lacking recently.