One of the better stories of the 2012-13 college basketball season, let alone the Big Ten, is Victor Oladipo. When Indiana recruited him out of DeMatha High School in Maryland, they were getting an elite-type athlete who played slightly out of control, had mediocre shooting mechanics, and got-by through shear athleticism alone. Three years later, they have a player who will vie for National Player of the Year in the NCAA.
At 6’5”/215 pounds, Oladipo combines the best of speed, strength, and leaping ability. He has always possessed the ability to take his defender one-on-one, but as a freshman, he lacked the smoothness around the rim to finish consistently. Stiff shooting mechanics and poor shot selection made him more of a liability than asset on the perimeter, hitting only 21% of his three-point attempts as recent as last season.
A tremendous work ethic fueled his off-season workouts, where he focused on changing his shooting form, bringing his elbow in and being more aligned with the basket. Experience and adherence to the disciplines that coach Tom Crean has instilled has made him a more intelligent player that has seen him not only take better shots, but has made him a facilitator for his teammates. The up-tempo style, along with offensive efficiency and sharing, has allowed not just Oladipo, but the rest of the Hoosiers, to get more shots and feel like contributors to the whole team effort.
The junior shooting guard ranks second on the team in scoring at 13.8 ppg and has progressed nicely over his career (7.4 ppg as a freshman and 10.8 ppg as a sophomore). His offense has expanded from just penetrating to the hole, to nailing mid-range jumpers from the foul-line extended and drastically improving his 3PT% to 52.4%. He does not necessarily take a bunch of three-pointers, but picks his spots. His 74.2% from the charity stripe also represents an improvement.
While most analysts and scouts laud his offensive improvements, his best work likely comes on the defensive end. Utilizing his tremendous physical attributes, he shows outstanding on-ball defense, being able to defend point guards to small forwards. Voted to the Big Ten All-Defensive team in 2011-12, he not only is an obvious lock for that honor again, but may challenge Ohio State PG Aaron Craft for the Defensive Player of the Year. He leads the Big Ten in steals/game at 2.4 and is one of the better rebounding guards in the country at 5.8 rpg.
It would also be remiss if Oladipo wasn’t recognized for what he does off the court. This spring, after only three years at Indiana, he will graduate with a degree in broadcasting and telecommunications. After a likely career in the NBA, he plans on applying his skills as basketball commentator. He is a regular volunteer to a handful of charities and is a member of a leadership organization.
Teammate Cody Zeller received most, if not all of the pre-season accolades thrown at Indiana, and rightly so. However, with his body of work and all-around contributions to the current number one team in the country, Oladipo will get votes as the top player in college basketball and will likely be a first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft in the summer.
*Oladipo suffered a sprained left ankle in the first-half of their game with Purdue on 2/16 and did not return, though Indiana had a comfortable lead that they never came close to relinquishing. He is expected to start against Michigan State tonight.
The noose is tightening at the top of the conference standings, with almost every game having the upmost importance. This week’s marquee match-ups includes, Indiana @ Michigan this evening, Minnesota @ Ohio State on Feb. 20, and a pair of Sunday (Feb. 24) contests pitting Illinois @ Michigan and Michigan State @ Ohio State.
Big Ten Power Rankings
1. Indiana 2. Michigan State 3. Michigan 4. Wisconsin 5. Illinois 6. Minnesota 7. Ohio State 8. Purdue 9. Iowa 10. Northwestern 11. Nebraska 12. Penn State
Deric McKamey is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball and covers the Big Ten. Thanks to detroitnews.com for the photo.