Imagine what could have been if I.U. kept Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo for four seasons. Oh My!
This was the Conversation Wednesday Night August 20 in Indy:
Victor Oladipo Speech
“Coach Crean used to tell us, there’s a lot of young people here, a lot of young children and Coach Crean used to say the bible says `to who much is given, much is required,’ so I feel like it’s required for me to say this. I’m living proof that don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do anything, because if you have a little bit of faith and you have a little bit of a core of people who believe in you, anything is possible. Coming out, I was not the greatest player, I was not, I was not a McDonald’s All American, I was not Jordan Brand, I only had one college offer coming out of high school. It’s because this man (Coach Crean) saw a little bit of something in me. I’m living proof, anything is possible.”
“I came here (to Indiana), my first year I was not the greatest player; I used to kick the ball all over the gym. But, no one outworked me. I just wanted something and I just kept pushing. No one outworked me; I was always in the gym. Luckily, we got this big fella (Cody Zeller) my sophomore year and got just a little bit better. Then, we just took off running. The summer of my sophomore year, I stayed in Indiana all summer. I didn’t see my mother that summer. I stayed with Marni (Mooney), I worked on my degree, I stayed here and I worked out, that summer changed my life. I ended up being the number two pick in the draft. I’m here to tell you young people – I’m talking about young people and I’m still young – I’m here to tell you guys that at a young age I was thinking the same things I’m thinking now. I wanted to do this, I wanted to do that, is it possible for me to do that? At a young age, I didn’t make teams. People didn’t believe in me. At a young age I was faced with adversity, so I’m here to tell you all that anything is possible. All you have to do is just believe in yourself and never let anybody outwork you, that’s all I have to say.”
Tom Crean, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller Q and A
Crean: What’s the biggest difference you found, on the court, from going to college basketball at the highest level to the absolute highest level of basketball in the NBA?
Oladipo: “Everything’s different – here it’s kind of unified as a family and in the NBA it’s totally different. Those guys have egos, they’ve been playing in the league for a long time – it’s not as unified. They’re people at different stages of their career and are trying to accomplish other things. Last year, I wasn’t really sure if winning was our number one priority on my team. It’s just crazy, man. It’s just a different feeling. It’s something you’ve got to get used to. I come back because this is my home; this is my family. I know when I come back here, I’m going to get Coach Crean, who pays attention to detail and tells me when my feet aren’t good, tells me when I need to hold my follow through and I have coach Jackson who knows my body already because I’ve been with him for three years and he knows what I need to work on. What better place to do that, then to come here to Bloomington. I mean, it’s just different, man. It’s a different monster, but I’m ready to attack it.”
Crean: What was your “welcome to the NBA” moment?
Oladipo: “It was opening night, when we played here. I had a good welcome to the NBA, because I had a standing ovation. I had a bad moment because my first possession, Paul George just smacked my layup off the glass and the commentator says “Welcome to the NBA.”
Cody Zeller’s Speaks
Crean: What was the biggest difference for you?
Zeller: “I think the biggest difference – everyone talks about how many games we play in the NBA. We played 86 games this year, including the playoffs. I was kind of prepared for that, but what people don’t talk about is it’s 82 against the best players in the world. Even in college we played 30, 35 games but there’s those non-conference games in there that we could win on talent. For us if we’re playing Milwaukee on a Tuesday night in front of 2000 people, you could get embarrassed if you don’t play well. So that was a big adjustment for me.”
Crean: 2000? Come’on, man…
Zeller: It’s unreal. Not all places are like Assembly Hall.
Crean: “Welcome to the NBA” moment
Zeller: My “welcome to the NBA” moment was guarding Kenyon Martin, I don’t know if you know Kenyon Martin. We played at Madison Square Garden, I guarded Amar’e Stoudemire, who called for isolation every time I was in. Kenyon Martin, you know, tattoos on the neck, guarded Carmelo Anthony. Madison Square Garden in the preseason was definitely my “welcome to the NBA” moment.
Crean: Tell everybody what it’s like for the Hoosier Nation support that you get in the other NBA cities outside of Indiana. What is that like when you go on the road?
Oladipo: “It is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. There was a point where we were in Oklahoma City or San Antonio, some place random, and they were just waiting outside the hotel, they’re at the gym. My coaches were like, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life!” There was a point where they used to joke on me because every time it was, “Any IU fans in the building?” It’s crazy. I had players from Kentucky, St. John’s, everywhere you can imagine. There’s nobody there. It’s always red in the stands. No matter where we’re at. It’s always that red in the stands. It just brings back memories. These were the three best years of my life – playing in front of you guys.
The fact that you guys treat us like you guys do, even though we are not wearing the jersey, it makes us work even harder than we already were. Honestly, and I know Cody feels the same way, we appreciate it from the bottoms of our hearts. You guys treat us like we’re your sons, we’re your brothers, we’re your grandsons – it’s crazy. It’s such a family. It’s hard not to come back. It really is. Like I said, I’ll always be a Hoosier and really believe that from the bottom of my heart.”
Zeller: “That’s actually, exactly what I was going to talk about when I got up here. Vic and I talk about this a lot. Vic and I were blown away this year. I think I kind of had tunnel vision, because, you know, I grew up in Indiana. Obviously, you were very supportive at Assembly Hall, but I don’t think I really understood how big the alumni base was around the country. We’re playing in Denver and I have 50 people waiting for me after the game. Playing in Philly… I think when Vic and I played each other there were more IU fans than Bobcat or Magic fans. I took the court at the Staples Center for the first time and there was four guys in the front row with candy stripe pants on. Obviously, Mark Cuban in Dallas was giving me a hard time – yelling at me from the front row. It was unbelievable this year all the support that we got across the country. Like I said, when I was here, I understood how big Assembly Hall is and how big this sport is in Bloomington. We really appreciate all the support we get around the country and I hope that you guys get the same feel from that. I appreciate it.”