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Ex-Hoosier Oladipo 'works' to scratch the NBA surface

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Embraces return to his Bloomington roots

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 12:01 am

INDIANAPOLIS -- Victor Oladipo still lives in the gym. Does that surprise you? He still works way past the norm. Would you expect anything less?

Some NBA players, once they attain wealth and success, as this former Indiana standout and NBA No. 2 overall pick has as he prepares for his second season with the Orlando Magic, become susceptible to temptations that are everywhere they look.

Oladipo?

He works.

Case in point No. 1 -- his approach to NBA's travel life.

“It's tough,” he says during a recent IU tailgate tour stop. “You get into the hotel at 1 or 2 in the morning. It's 24 hour room service. You can get whatever you want. I mean, anything you want.”

He smiles. For a moment, Lucas Oil Stadium resonates with Sodom and Gomorrah possibilities.

“I don't have to explain that. That tells you, wow, it's crazy.”

Oladipo has no time for crazy. Case in point No. 2 -- his August return to Bloomington.

Oladipo was there with former IU teammate Cody Zeller, Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade (he played for Hoosier coach Tom Crean while both were at Marquette) and Heat players Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole and Josh McRoberts.

They did not gather at Cook Hall to socialize, just as Crean wasn't there for small talk. The full-throttle coach ran rigorous sessions (would you expect anything less?) and Oladipo wanted more. He has superstar visions, you see, and they won't come true by wishing or living on the wild side.

“I have to work on a little bit of everything. I haven't scratched the surface of how good I can be. I've been saying that for a long time. even when I was (at IU).

“Being the No. 2 pick was cool, but I feel like I have so much more to accomplish. I'll continue to keep working and getting better.”

Oladipo works wherever he goes, and mostly it's Orlando, the Washington D.C. area (his family lives there) or Bloomington. The IU campus is a perfect place for him to train, and as you can imagine, he has Crean's blessing to return as much as he wants for as long as he wants.

“I come back because I'm familiar with it,” he says. “It's in the middle of nowhere, but it's somewhere. It's somewhere I can go and be comfortable and still get my work in.

“Coach Crean always pays attention to detail. He helps me a lot. I never forget where I come from. What better place to come back than Bloomington?”

As for the workouts with Wade and the other Heat players, Oladipo couldn't have asked for more.

“It was good. Me and Cody learned a lot. Those guys are champions, man. They have NBA championship rings. Between all of them, it's like 12 to 13 NBA rings.

“It was great for us to experience them, watch film with them, see how they pay attention to detail and how they take their craft serioius. It was big for me. I took a lot from it. I know Cody did the same.”

As a rookie last season, Oladipo rotated between starter and reserve, and made a major impact (13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists). Now he projects as a full-time starter and star in the making.

“I'm working on being a leader; playing with confidence, being consistent. Those are the three big things. Everything else will come.”

One of Oladipo's biggest adjustments was the jump in the number of games. He played in 104 college games over three seasons. A pro can play that many in a season counting playoffs and exhibitions.

“You can't really prepare for that,” he says. “You have to experience that. It was tough. I'm immune to it now, though.”

Orlando went 23-59 last season -- three more wins than the previous year -- and remain locked in rebuilding mode. The Magic got Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Roy Devyn Marble in the June draft; then picked up Ben Gordon and Evan Fournier.

“This season will be good," Oladipo says. "We have a lot of shooters now. Guys who can spread the floor. That will open some lanes for me. I’m looking forward to it.”

Nearly every college player would like to follow in Oladipo's NBA foot steps. He offers advice.

“You're going to have a lot of ups and downs. You're going to have lot of good days, bad days. At the end of the day it's a process. Nothing comes overnight.

“The big things are, first, keep an even keel and not get too high or too low; and, second, have a good diet. That's huge for our league and for being an athlete. You have to eat the proper food. Your body is your temple. It's your job. It's like a car. You've got to put premium gas in it. Those are the two biggest things.”

Oladipo followed the Hoosiers last season, when they stumbled from Big Ten champs to a 17-15 self-destructive group that failed to make the NCAA or NIT. He was on campus for the season's biggest moment -- when IU upset previously unbeaten Wisconsin last January. The Hoosiers had lost 12 straight to the Badgers.

“I was in the locker room screaming,” Oladipo says. “It was like I was playing. When I was here, we never beat Wisconsin, so when they beat them, I was like,

'Yeah! Finally.'”

With six freshmen and nine newcomers, Indiana doesn't project as a Big Ten or a national factor. Oladipo isn't so sure.

“They'll be pretty good next year. I know a lot of people don't think so, but I'm looking forward to watching them.”

Almost as much as he looks forward to more work.