ORLANDO, Fla. — Victor Oladipo had a message for Orlando Magic fans, taped not long after he was selected with the No. 2 pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
“I’m excited to get down there and get started, and help you guys win, because that’s what it’s all about,” Oladipo said, in a video posted on the team’s web site. “Go Magic.”
With that, his pro career got off on the right foot.
The Magic went small with the second overall selection, taking the Indiana guard who measured just over 6-foot-3 at the draft combine. Oladipo, who played at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, was a first-team Associated Press All-American after averaging 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a junior, leading the Hoosiers to their first outright Big Ten regular-season championship in 20 years.
“Surreal feeling, man,” Oladipo said. “I’ve been watching this draft pretty much all my life, and to actually be a part of it and to actually be the No. 2 pick in this draft is truly a blessing from God. Just going to continue to keep working hard. I’m just getting started.”
He set an Indiana record for single-season steals with 78, earning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award in a season where he shot a conference-best 60 percent.
“My defense is everything,” Oladipo said. “It’s the reason why I got here, and it’s the reason I’m at the point that I am now, and why it’s going to help me separate myself in the future. I’m going to keep growing in that area as well. I feel like I can grow in different aspects of my defense, too, so I’m going to definitely bring that to the Orlando Magic.”
Oladipo became Indiana’s highest draft pick since eventual Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas was taken No. 2 in 1981. The Magic had plenty of options with the pick, especially after Cleveland went with a surprise by taking UNLV’s Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 selection.
But the Magic knew what they wanted, and stayed with Oladipo, firming up that decision in the last couple days.
“I think he has a big heart,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said after the draft. “I think that showed itself, that reared itself, in the discussions we had with him.”
Oladipo is primarily a shooting guard, though the Magic could use him at both backcourt spots.
“I see myself as a little bit of both, a combination guard,” he said. “But whatever they want me to be, wherever I can have an impact, that’s where I’ll be.”
Oladipo has drawn some comparisons to Miami’s Dwyane Wade, and says he likens certain aspects of his game to Wade’s. Both were coached by Tom Crean in college, Wade playing for him at Marquette.
“He’s a great player and someone I actually look up to, and I can’t wait to go against him on the court,” Oladipo said. “It’s going to be fun.”
The Magic are coming off an NBA-worst 20-62 season after six straight playoff seasons and a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009.
The young core of the team, which is rebuilding since Dwight Howard forced a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, is comprised of the front-court foursome of Nikola Vukevic, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris and last year’s first-round pick, Andrew Nicholson. Veterans Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo were Orlando’s starting guards for most of last season.
With their second-round pick, No. 51 overall, the Magic chose Romero Osby from Oklahoma.
“In Indiana we had a huge rebuilding process, so I know what it takes,” Oladipo said. “I’m looking forward to going there and working hard and playing at a high level and help impact winning. … I’m not trying to come in and do everything and try to outshine everybody. I’m going to come in and work hard.”
Oladipo is the Magic’s first draft pick in the top 10 since they selected Howard first overall in 2004. He is only guard the Magic have ever drafted with a top-10 pick.
Oladipo also was the only guard drafted among the top six picks Thursday night, going two picks ahead of Indiana teammate Cody Zeller. The 7-foot Zeller went to Charlotte with the fourth pick.
“To be honest, I didn’t know where I was going to go. When they called my name it was a great feeling,” Oladipo said. “So thank God they called my name. I can’t wait to get down there and work.”
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