Before he became a soaring rookie for the Orlando Magic, Victor Oladipo spent most of his college career flying under the radar. But as a junior at Indiana University last season, the 6′ 4″ guard led the Big Ten in steals (2.2 per game) and field goal percentage (59.9 percent). Off the court, Oladipo grabbed the attention of fans when videos of him singing R&B songs at school events went viral.
There's no doubt that the Number 2 pick of the 2013 draft has caught the attention of hoopheads. Through December 4, he ranked second among rookies in scoring (13.9 points per game) and steals (1.72). For our January/February issue, he sat down with SI Kids to discuss his rookie season, his singing talents, and life as a twin.
How has your rookie season been so far?
It's a little different from what I was used to. It's basketball 24/7. No classes. No homework. There's nothing else to really occupy my time. I'm living my dream. Just being able to wake up every day and say I'm doing what I love, it's a blessing. That's the best part.
The Magic is rebuilding. You helped the Hoosiers improve from a 12-win season your freshman year to reaching the Sweet Sixteen as a junior. What lessons can you apply here?
Never stop working hard. Never. We struggled my first year at Indiana. It was hard going into games knowing there's no chance of winning, but you have to put in effort. I remember staying in the gym and not going home during the summers so I could get better. Same thing applies here. I see a lot of potential here in Orlando. I know we can get better.
You have an outgoing personality. How do you strike a balance between being serious and having fun with your teammates?
Everyone is a competitor, and we take these games seriously. We also can't be stressed out. There's a time and a place to have fun and be relaxed too. I think I did a good job of doing that at Indiana — being vocal and funny, but also knowing when to be serious. When I'm in the locker room, I might hit a tune here or there. I like to sing John Legend and Usher.
Who is the best singer on the Magic?
Me, of course — hands down! I was raised in the church, so that's how I learned how to sing. I don't think anyone [else] can sing on the team. Well, Big Baby [Glen Davis], perhaps. But I'm the true singer on the team.
If the NBA asked you to perform a song during All-star Weekend, would you do it?
I don't know. That's a lot of people [watching]!
But you play in front of big crowds every night.
I've been playing basketball since I was five. I don't sing for a living!
O.K., how about the All-Star dunk contest?
I'd probably do it. I'd take a survey of my teammates and get some feedback. I'd have to figure out how to make my dunks unique. Every dunk has been done.
Your father didn't want you to focus too much on basketball as a kid, so you'd sneak out and play it. Did you ever get caught?
Yeah. I was seven or eight. It was a Sunday, right before church. My father would leave to go before my mom, sisters, and me. After he pulled off in the car, I grabbed my basketball and went outside. I dribbled up the sidewalk in my church clothes. I didn't think he'd come back, but he did. When he saw me, he was heated. I didn't get into trouble, though — my mom saved me. Whenever my dad wasn't home, I'd go outside and play. I'd borrow basketballs from school, bring them home, and hide them in my room. My mom knew about it. It was a secret between us.
You have a twin sister, Victoria. Are you anything like her?
We're alike in many ways. We both like broccoli, but we don't like pickles. There are some days I won't feel well, and I'll call her and she doesn't feel right [either]. Kind of weird, but I guess that's twins stuff.
Have you been to Disney World in Orlando yet?
I've been to Universal Studios. I went with a couple of [teammates] on Halloween. We went through the haunted houses, and the zombies were walking around. The roller coasters were cool. I have to make a trip to Magic Kingdom and hang with Mickey and Minnie soon!
Photo: BILL FRAKES/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Orlando Magic Rookie Victor Oladipo Shines On and Off the Court