Fans of the Indiana Hoosiers men's basketball team grew to love Victor Oladipo during his three collegiate seasons.
On Tuesday night, Oladipo will be reunited with Hoosiers fans when his new team, the Orlando Magic, opens its regular season against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.
But the Hoosiers devotees will see one fundamental difference with Oladipo: his position. In a move that has been dissected within NBA circles, the Magic are asking their prized rookie to play point guard, a position he never played in high school or college.
If it works out, the switch could be remembered as a masterstroke of unconventional thinking. But some NBA experts think the Magic are taking a risk that could hurt Oladipo's confidence and stunt his growth.
"Probably the hardest transition to be made in basketball is to go from shooting guard to point guard," said Greg Anthony, an NBA TV analyst who played point guard in the NBA for 11 seasons. "To use a football analogy, it's like asking, in essence, your running back or your wide receiver to become your quarterback. I think it's going to be a tremendous challenge for him.
"I'm a big, big Victor Oladipo fan. I think he's a phenomenal talent, physically as gifted as anybody in this past year's draft. But I thought he was more naturally suited to be an off-guard. I think he has the ability to defend the [point-guard] position, no question. The one thing you want with great athletes is to put them in positions where they're not thinking about everything they're doing and they're playing on instincts and reacting. So, this could be a real challenge for him."
Oladipo primarily played at point guard during the Magic's eight-game preseason, and he averaged 13.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 turnovers per game.
"I think I'm doing pretty good, but it's not going to happen overnight," Oladipo said. "A lot of people might think they're making a mistake in putting me there [at point guard] or confusing me. But I'm just taking it one game at a time and trying to learn, because I feel like if I get it down, then I'll be really good at it."
The Magic, who are in Year Two of their rebuilding plan, can afford to be patient.
"We're trying to find versatile players, and we see that versatility is a valuable commodity if you can have it on your roster," Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan said.
In an effort to dampen expectations, Magic officials never compare their players to players on other teams. But Hennigan worked in the Oklahoma City Thunder's front office when the Thunder drafted UCLA shooting guard Russell Westbrook and then chose to play Westbrook at point guard.
That move worked brilliantly. Westbrook is a perennial All-Star who, at 6-feet-3, creates matchup problems.
Oladipo is listed as 6-feet-5. Magic officials believe he can become an elite perimeter defender and — if his move to point guard works out — a matchup nightmare for opposing teams on both ends of the court.
In the season before Westbrook was drafted, the Thunder (who were then the Seattle SuperSonics) posted a 20-62 record.
Last season, the Magic posted a 20-62 record.
Steve Kerr, a former NBA general manager who played 15 NBA seasons at point guard, sees parallels between Westbrook's situation and Oladipo's situation.
"Neither team expected to do much, so it's kind of a chance to grow," said Kerr, now an analyst for TNT.
"I think Oladipo is in a position where the team doesn't have to win. He can figure out the NBA. He can grow with his teammates, and Orlando will get to figure out what he really is and there's no rush on it. So, why not give him his chances and figure out what position he really is and let him grow as he goes?"
Westbrook benefitted from playing alongside a future superstar, Kevin Durant.
Oladipo has no superstar teammates to lean on, but he'll begin the season playing behind veteran point guard Jameer Nelson.
Oladipo also has benefitted from playing for coach Jacque Vaughn, who played point guard in the NBA for over a decade.
Vaughn has praised Oladipo for how Oladipo responds to turnovers, rough shooting nights and constructive criticism from coaches.
On Oct. 18, Oladipo committed two early turnovers against the Memphis Grizzlies, but he didn't have another turnover the rest of the night as he finished with 22 points, four rebounds and three assists.
"Having called his games and having met the young man, intellectually, he's on par with the very best young talent you have in the game," Anthony, the NBA TV analyst, said.
"If anybody's going to be able to do it, it would be him. But I just think that's asking a bit much, especially early on, especially in a scenario where you're probably going to be taking a lot of lumps and a lot of losses. You definitely could hinder his growth curve and his confidence moving forward."
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.