“I'm going to work my butt off,” the former Indiana Hoosier told ESPN moments after becoming the No. 2 player selected in Thursday night'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).
Oladipo also was IU's highest pick since Isiah Thomas went No. 2 to Detroit in 1981.
“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 was 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.
That improvement was the result of Oladipo's drive and determination, as well as the work culture pushed by IU coach Tom Crean and his staff.
“Coach Crean has done so much for me,” Oladipo told ESPN. “Without him, I wouldn't be in this position.”
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.”
Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan considered trading the No. 2 pick as several teams wanted to move up and take Oladipo. In the end, he took Oladipo for the youthful Magic, who had the worst record in the NBA this past season at 20-62. They are rebuilding behind a foundation of center Nikola Vucevic and forwards Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris.
“We like what he's about,” Hennigan told ESPN. “We like his work ethic and his ability to impact both ends of the floor. He plays efficient basketball, which is always good.”
Oladipo was Orlando's first top-10 pick since 2004, when it took Dwight Howard at No. 1.
“They're in a huge rebuilding process,” Oladipo said during a post-draft press conference. “I'm glad they chose me so I could be part of that. At Indiana we had a huge rebuilding process, so I know what it takes. I look forward to going there, working hard, playing at a high level and help impact winning.”
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 rebound. 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.”
Charlotte went 21-61 this past season behind guards Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Ramon Sessions and forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
“Charlotte is one of my top choices because it's such a young group of guys with Kemba Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist especially,” Zeller said. “Guys with good motors who play the right way. They get up and run. I think all around it's a great fit for me.
“I'm going to try to be the hardest-working guy. If it's a good group of hard-working guys, then the team is going to start winning.”
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.”
Two other former Hoosiers, forward Christian Watford and guard Jordan Hulls, were not drafted. Both hope to join an NBA summer league team and earn a free agent contract.