Scouts, high-school coaches and college coaches told Orlando Magic executives that Victor Oladipo works as hard as any player available in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Now, the Magic will hope he lives up to his reputation.
The team used the second overall pick Thursday night to select the Indiana Hoosier shooting guard.
“I’m at a loss for words, really,” Oladipo said. “I’m just so thankful, and I thank God that they picked me. I’m looking forward to getting down there and impact their winning.”
Oladipo — pronounced oh-luh-DEE-poe — has endured one successful rebuilding project already. In 2010, he joined the Hoosiers as they were recovering from crippling sanctions. Indiana posted a 12-20 record his freshman season, but it reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 during his sophomore and junior seasons.
Known as a tenacious defender, Oladipo joins a Magic team that struggled on defense last season as it posted an NBA-worst 20-62 record.
“He has a tireless work ethic at that end of the floor,” Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan said.
“I think we really saw Victor as someone who took pride in defense, took pride in defending the best player on the opposing team. Anytime you have someone who wants to play defense and gets excited about defense, that excites us, and that was one of the reasons that we liked him as much as we do.”
With their second-round pick, 51st overall, the Magic selected 6-foot-8 forward Romero Osby, who finished his college career at Oklahoma.
The Magic like Oladipo so much that they passed up at least two trade offers — perhaps from the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After the Cleveland Cavaliers opened the draft by picking UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett first overall, Orlando also passed up the opportunity to select Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, Georgetown small forward Otto Porter Jr. or Michigan point guard Trey Burke.
Hennigan said that the Magic liked Oladipo more than any of them. Asked specifically about Noel, who is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, Hennigan conceded that Noel’s knee played a factor, although not necessarily a significant factor.
Oladipo said he had no inkling that the Magic would pick him until NBA Commissioner David Stern stood on the stage at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and called his name.
When Stern made the announcement, a crowd of Magic fans inside the Amway Center lobby cheered and jumped up and down.
Many NBA scouts regard Oladipo as a “safe” pick, someone whose ceiling on offense doesn’t match McLemore’s but will work and work and work until he maximizes his potential.
At last month’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Oladipo posted one of the highest vertical jumps, skying 42 inches after he took a running start.
He averaged 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a junior in 2012-13.
He also recorded 2.2 steals per game.
“My defense is everything,” Oladipo said. “It’s the reason why I got here. It’s the reason why I’m at the point I’m in, and it’s going to help me separate myself in the future. It’s everything to me, so I’m going to continue to keep growing in that area as well.”
There are some concerns about Oladipo’s game.
Outside shooting ranks at the top of the list. He made just 20.8 percent of his 3-point tries as a sophomore at Indiana; although he improved to 44.1 percent as a junior, he only attempted 68 shots from behind the arc that season.
He measured 6 feet 3¼ inches tall in bare feet at the combine, although the Magic will list him as 6-feet-5.
Arron Afflalo is the Magic’s starting shooting guard, but Afflalo is rumored to be a key piece in a potential trade down the road with the Los Angeles Clippers that would bring point guard Eric Bledsoe to the Magic.
Hennigan left open the possibility the Clippers and Magic will discuss a potential trade in the future.
Oladipo, 21, grew up in suburban Washington, D.C., and attended DeMatha Catholic High School, the same basketball powerhouse that Keith Bogans, Adrian Dantley and Danny Ferry attended.
His parents emigrated from Africa — his dad from Sierra Leone, his mom from Nigeria. His dad is said to have earned a Ph.D., while his mom became a registered nurse.
Both parents attended the draft in Brooklyn.
“It’s just a surreal experience,” Oladipo said. “This day, it’s crazy. I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time, and for it to actually be here is a surreal feeling. I’m definitely blessed and humbled by it.”firstname.lastname@example.org