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Indiana guard Victor Oladipo will skip his senior season and enter the NBA draft. Oladipo was named a first-team All-American.

Oladipo making his move

Indiana junior seen as lottery pick in NBA draft

DeMatha Catholic basketball coach Mike Jones has watched plenty of “superstars” walk the halls of his school and run the court with his program.

That’s what makes Indiana guard Victor Oladipo – first a role player at the Maryland school, then an IU defensive stopper and now a prospective NBA draft lottery pick – so special to the longtime coach of one of the best private schools in the country.

“He wasn’t the prodigy when he got to us,” Jones said. “He’s a self-made player.”

The 6-foot-4 junior created himself a legacy as a Hoosier, as well. Next, he will try to do so at the NBA level.

“It’s been an honor to play here at Indiana,” Oladipo said at a news conference in Bloomington. “To be an Indiana Hoosier means so much to me, and I’ll always be an Indiana Hoosier. This is my home.”

Oladipo made his decision to enter the NBA draft official Tuesday at a news conference with IU coach Tom Crean. He averaged 13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals while raking in awards in his final season with the Hoosiers.

“The numbers, they don’t tell the story,” Crean said from a platform set up on Branch McCracken Court in Assembly Hall. “The story has been written inside this building, with extra work in Cook Hall, in the film room.”

Next up is Cody Zeller, who will announce his future plans today. Zeller, a 7-foot forward, is also projected as a lottery pick in this year’s draft.

Oladipo’s story has been one of consistent improvement and massive gains from one season to the next. And now, Crean said, Oladipo – who will graduate in May – is all but assured of being a lottery pick.

NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony of Draft Express put Oladipo as the No. 5 pick in the draft, going to the Detroit Pistons. The guard possesses all the intangibles and more now, Givony said.

“He’s probably one of the more athletic wing players in this draft,” Givony said. “That’s attractive right off the bat. He doesn’t have great size, but he has a good wingspan and a good frame. …

“He rebounds. He hustles. He does all the little things.”

Oladipo hit 44 percent from three-point range this season, compared with 21 percent the previous season, to complement his improved ball handling and other skills.

Those strides led him to Associated Press first-team All-America honors; Sporting News Player of the Year recognition; and a co-Defensive Player of the Year accolade from the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Oladipo earned plenty of recognition at the conference level, earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-Big Ten first-team honors.

“I would like to thank coach Crean for believing in me when it seemed like no one else would,” said Oladipo, who was lightly recruited out of high school before Crean offered him a scholarship. “It’s truly a dream come true, but it became a goal. To actually achieve my goal is an amazing feeling. I’ve just got to keep working.”

Crean said he is in full support of Oladipo’s decision and that lottery money after a standout season was “too good to pass up.” The guard does not yet have an agent, and he plans to finish his degree and graduate May 4, his birthday. He will work out with IU strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson until then.

From there, Oladipo said, the only certainty is memories from Bloomington that will last a lifetime.

“I’ll always remember wearing those candy stripes, playing on this floor, playing with these guys,” Oladipo said. “I’ll never forget it, and I hope they’ll never forget me.”

smorrison@jg.net

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