Indiana's Victor Oladipo Almost Didn't Happen

11:33 AM, Mar 13, 2013   |    comments
Oladipo owes his success to his mom (USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES).
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- College basketball fans all over the country have fallen in love with Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo. Scouts have compared his game to the mighty Dwayne Wade -- both high-flyers, both impeccable on defense, both able to make clutch baskets in times of need.

If you watch the Hoosiers closely, it's the Upper Marlboro, Md. junior whose mainly responsible for putting the program back on the map, and not big man Cody Zeller. There are some experts arguing Oladipo could be National Player of the Year.

But all of this success was almost nipped in the bud. You see Oladipo's father Chris, a Nigerian immigrant, was never very fond of his son's interest in basketball, rarely attended any of his games at DeMatha and discouraged the entire AAU basketball process for several years. Mr. Oladipo even tried sending his son to China to learn martial arts, seeing it as a chance improve his self discipline -- albeit during the middle of the college recruiting process. Without the persistence of his mother Joan, America might not know who Victor Oladipo is.

"My husband is very intellectual, more the book type. He saw basketball as a distraction to Victor's studies. It took awhile for him to support Victor. He would tell Victor, 'study, study, study!" said Joan Oladipo in an interview over the phone.

Joan didn't let her husband's angst about the situation deter her son from his first love. She provided him with DVD's of Michael Jordan and signed him up for various rec leagues. She knew he had a future in basketball when coaches were fighting over who would have her son as early as first grade.

"I wanted Victor to be something someday. I started to realize he was special. He was always so passionate on the court.  I was not going to let him stop playing [basketball]," said Mrs. Oladipo. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would be this good."

A registered nurse who normally works night shifts, Joan Oladipo instilled two main facets of the Nigerian culture into Victor: respect your elders and stay as humble as possible. The mother-son speak on the phone before and after every game.

"But I let him know that it's never just him. It's always team first," Oladipo said sternly.

As the season winds down and Joan gears up for her trip to Chicago this week for the Big 10 tournament, there will be a white elephant in the room: will Victor forego his senior season at Indiana and declare for the NBA Draft? Several outlets predict Oladipo could be selected in the top 10 in June, especially if Indiana reels off a deep March Madness run.

What will make this an even tougher decision for Oladipo is the fact that he's graduating in May. With a diploma he's promised his father he would receive and millions of dollars sitting on the table, he has to go pro, right Joan?

"The decision is 100 percent his. He is a smart kid. He will do whatever is right for him," said Joan Oladipo, a proud tone in her voice. "I've always told him whatever you feel is right in your heart, do it. If he goes one year early, that's fine with me."

Indiana made Victor Oladipo unavailable for comment.

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