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Thursday, February 7, 2013
Oladipo enters POY straw poll at No. 4

By Michael Rothstein

Victor Oladipo arrived at Indiana as part of the rebuilding process, a player with a ton of athleticism but who needed vast improvement in the nuance of basketball.

The potential was there, but Oladipo needed to hone it.

Indiana coach Tom Crean saw Oladipo’s desire from when he arrived in Bloomington, Ind. Now he’s seeing the results, too, as Oladipo has become one of the biggest impact players for the Hoosiers.

“My freshman year, it was kind of like I wanted to, but I wasn’t capable,” Oladipo told reporters recently. “I started growing my sophomore year and now my junior year, I have to bring it every night on both ends of the floor.”

It took one big matchup on a national stage against then-No. 1 Michigan -- and player-of-the-year candidate Trey Burke -- for Oladipo to reach the latest growth step: Consideration as one of the best players in the country.

Burke overtook Creighton’s Doug McDermott to take a slight lead in the third ESPN.com Player of the Year poll, but Oladipo made the biggest move. He entered the poll for the first time and sits in fourth place. His performance, especially defensively against Michigan, helped.

“He eats up space and keeps his hand out,” Burke said. “He moves his feet really well. He’s very athletic, so you really don’t have time to play around with him.”

Oladipo’s defensive ability goes back to his athleticism. On defense, it shows with his ability to shut down and close out opponents. On offense, it comes with his overall ability -- and was on display during a missed alley-oop dunk against the Wolverines when he caught the ball one-handed in the air and just missed finishing it off.

The 6-foot-5 junior from Upper Marlboro, Md., has affected the game on offense, where he averages 14 points, and on defense, where he averages 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals.

“He can guard two actions at one time, the screen and the man, and it is rare you see that. His recovery time, because of his lateral quickness, is exceptional,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “And there’s a lot of people who are very athletic like that, but they don’t want it like he does. He wants to be a good defender.

“That makes a big difference.”

Enough to put Oladipo in the race to be the country’s top player.

Tracking the contenders
Burke: Preseason -- T-11th; first regular-season poll -- 2nd; second regular-season poll -- 2nd; third regular-season poll -- 1st.
McDermott: Preseason -- 2nd, first regular-season poll -- 3rd, second regular-season poll -- 1st, third regular-season poll -- 2nd.
Plumlee: Preseason -- NR; first regular-season poll -- 1st; second regular-season poll -- 3rd; third regular-season poll -- 3rd.
Oladipo: Preseason -- NR; first regular-season poll -- NR; second regular-season poll -- NR; third regular-season poll -- 4th.
Zeller: Preseason -- 1st; first regular-season poll -- 4th; second regular-season poll -- 4th; third regular-season poll -- 5th.

Poll analysis