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Monday, March 11, 2013
Victor Oladipo: We knew him when

By Eamonn Brennan

Victor Oladipo's come a long way since his freshman year at Indiana. Back then, he was a sparsely recruited unknown throwing his body like a Chernobyl liquidator at a program that had won just 10 games the year prior. Now he's a national player of the year candidate -- quite arguably the favorite -- leading the way for the first outright Big Ten champion Indiana has fielded since 1993.

Back then, Oladipo was an athlete. He guarded, and he flew around the court, but he didn't have other demonstrable college basketball skills. He could just as easily have been a football player, or one of those people who flies down cliffs. Now he's not just a basketball player but a nearly complete one: a great defender, active rebounder and one of the most efficient offensive players in the country.

Back then, Oladipo was just a guy, as unremarkable as any of the other thousands of college basketball players across the country. Now, alongside center Cody Zeller, he's one of the game's biggest and most recognizable stars, the guy the CBS cameras closed in on after Indiana sealed its Big Ten title Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor. (At least until Tom Crean told and former IU assistant Jeff Meyer he "tried to wreck the program," which was just baffling.) Now with March Madness -- and the annual spring migration of casual fans and storyline-hungry media members -- upon us, Oladipo is about to get his close-up.

Indeed, it may have already arrived. The New York Times' Ben Shipgel zoned in on Oladipo and his teammates Sunday, and the result was a lot of interesting detail you may not already know about the kid's background: his rural Maryland upbringing, his parents' roots in Nigeria, the fact that his father has never attended an Indiana game. And there was also the frankly totally unsurprising disclosure that Oladipo sings constantly.
Victor Oladipo believes there is a song for every occasion, and to the resignation of his Indiana teammates, those occasions include blinking, breathing and walking.
“Nonstop,” Cody Zeller said.
“Twenty-four seven,” Christian Watford said.
“All. The. Time,” Will Sheehey said.
In the shower, Oladipo turns into Usher. Strolling across campus, he belts out Tyrese. After acing an exam, he croons gospel because, after all, he said, he must thank God.

All of which immediately reminded me of the first time I paid any mind to Oladipo off the court. It was back in April 2011, after Indiana's postseason awards banquet, when Oladipo did a cover of Usher so good I naturally assumed he must be lip-syncing. Needless to say, it was blog manna.

Ahhh, kids. One day they're wearing cardigans and singing Usher to a crowd of student-athletes and their families; next thing they're swatting Jordan Morgan on the weak side to halt yet another Michigan bucket with the best conference in the country's outright title on the line. They grow up so fast.