In late April or early May, Victor Oladipo sat in front of a TV inside his Bloomington, Ind., apartment, watching an NBA playoff game wrap up on the West Coast. It was midnight. He needed to be up early in the morning.
Something compelled him to go the practice court, anyway.
He grabbed his ID card, laced up his sneakers and went to the Indiana Hoosiers' gym.
"Twenty-four hour access," he recalled recently, a smile crossing his face. "You just swipe the card and you're right in there. It's a beautiful thing. I just want to get better. I want to be the best basketball player I can possibly be."
Similiar anecdotes about Oladipo's work ethic abound. A case-in-point: He visited the Hoosiers' practice facility so often during his Indiana tenure that he wore out his ID card's magnetic strip and needed to have the card replaced.
Oladipo's relentless determination, combined with his tenacity on defense and his raw athletic ability, might persuade the Orlando Magic to select him with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft on June 27.
Kansas' Ben McLemore and Oladipo are widely considered the two best shooting guards in the 2013 draft class. McLemore is regarded as a potentially elite shooter, while Oladipo is thought of as a potentially elite perimeter defender with more grit.
"He never takes a day off," Hoosiers coach Tom Crean once said of Oladipo.
Oladipo's work ethic almost has taken on mythic proportions, with even casual college basketball fans and armchair draft experts raving about his "motor" on the court.
His story could've been written by Horatio Alger.
His parents emigrated from Africa — his dad from Sierra Leone, his mom from Nigeria — and settled in suburban Washington, D.C. His dad earned a Ph.D., while his mom became a registered nurse.
Mike Jones, Oladipo's coach at DeMatha Catholic High School, said Victor demonstrated an unmatched drive, almost always attending optional 6 a.m. open-gym sessions to hone his game.
"He really worked as hard as he possibly could, and if the gym was going to be open, you knew you could count on Victor being there," Jones said. "He kind of became like the Pied Piper. When Victor worked out, other guys wanted to work out, too. His outlook and his approach are definitely contagious."
All the hard work has paid off.
As a high-school senior, Rivals.com ranked Oladipo as the nation's 144th-best college prospect.
And, within a few days, some NBA team will pick him early in the NBA Draft.
"[It's] surreal sometimes," said Oladipo, who earned his college degree in three years.
"Sometimes I wake up at night or wake up early in the morning, and just think, 'Wow. I'm about to be in the NBA.' I've been dreaming about this all my life."
The questions about Oladipo, who stands 6-feet-4¼ in sneakers, revolve around his offensive game.
He made about 31 percent of his 3-point tries as a freshman, almost 21 percent as a sophomore and 44 percent as a junior. He credits his improvement to the hours he spent practicing in the gym.
But was his higher percentage a fluke?
Even if it wasn't, his most ardent admirers acknowledge that he needs to improve his ball-handling and his ability to create his own shot.
Still, Oladipo ranks as one of the most explosive players in this draft class. During last month's NBA Draft Combine, his vertical leap with a running start measured 42 inches, the second-highest and tied with McLemore.
"I feel like I've got a lot of potential to be really great," Oladipo said. "So I've just got to keep working in order for that dream and for that goal to come true. I'm just going to stay in the gym and keep working hard and play with whoever my future teammates might be."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun