“I'm going to work my butt off,” the former Indiana Hoosier told ESPN moments after becoming the No. 2 player selected in Thursday's draft by the Orlando Magic. “I'm going to bring a work ethic there they've probably never seen before.”
“Because I want it so bad.”
About 10 minutes later, Oladipo's IU teammate, Cody Zeller, was selected with the No. 4 pick by the Charlotte Bobcats.
That represented the best draft showing in Hoosier program history. The previous best came in 1976, when Scott May was No. 1 (to Chicago) and Quinn Buckner was No. 7 (to Milwaukee).
“It says a lot about our coaching staff,” Zeller told ESPN. “It says a lot about all the hard work we've put in. Indiana will be good for a long time.”
Oladipo went from a guy nobody figured as draft material at the start of his junior season to a player considered perhaps the most NBA ready player in the draft. The 6-4 guard set career highs in scoring (13.6 points), rebounding (6.3) and shooting (59.9 percent). He was first-team All-America and the Big Ten's defensive player of the year.
“Victor Oladipo had as big an improvement as I've ever seen as a college player from one year to the next,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said.
Some experts wondered if Oladipo has reached his ceiling on improvement. Bilas doesn't agree.
“He has worked incredibly hard. I just don't buy this idea that if you're 23 years old or 22 years old that you've hit your ceiling. (Veteran San Antonio center) Tim Duncan was drafted when he was 22 or 23, and he got a heck of a lot better. That doesn't end your arc of improvement. And the fact that Oladipo is a really hard worker speaks really well to his ability to get better.”
Still, Bilas doesn't see Oladipo as the second coming of Dwyane Wade, the former Marquette standout under then coach Tom Crean, who now runs the Hoosiers program.
“One thing that we were way overboard on, he is not Dwyane Wade,” Bilas said. “I don't think he's going to be Dwyane Wade. Dwyane Wade was better at this stage of his career than Victor is. But I think he's going to be a really good NBA player.”
The 7-foot Zeller exceeded pre-draft speculation and blasted away criticism that he wasn't physical enough or explosive enough to merit top-10 consideration. He led IU in scoring and rebounding in both of his seasons, averaging 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds last year while shooting 56.2 percent from the field.
Although he missed his only two college three-point attempts, Zeller showed during workouts with 10 NBA teams that he has a perimeter game. His NBA combine numbers — including a 37.5-inch standing jump that was even better than Oladipo's — showcased his athleticism.
“He was the best player on his team for two years, Victor Oladipo included,” Bilas said. “He's the most efficient big guy in the country.
“I think he can shoot it. I think he's going to prove that. I think he's a hard worker. I think he plays with a chip on his shoulder.
“The one issue that he's got, he needs to improve his post-game and his ability to elevate and score over size around the basket. But running, his bounce, his ability to I think he could be a better rebounder. He needs to be a better rebounder. But I think he's going to be a very good NBA player.”
Zeller also showcased some Twitter humor in the hours leading up to the draft. Here are some examples:
*“I was going to shave to get ready for tonight, but then I remembered that I don't have the ability to grow facial hair”
*“I wish I could find something to do tonight. Just not much going on.”
*“I was expecting the green room to be more......green.”