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Sports Business

The sooner Oladipo bolts Bloomington, the better for IU

April 10, 2013
KEYWORDS Sports Business

In the case of Victor Oladipo's bolting IU for the NBA, it’s not good riddance to bad rubbish. Far from it.

But the quicker the junior guard beats a path out of Bloomington, and begins earning his keep in the pro ranks, the better for IU Coach Tom Crean—and his recruiting efforts.

And, no, this has nothing to do with IU's needing Oladipo’s roster spot for one of its many recruits—even though that is true, too.

Oladipo, more than any player over the last decade and certainly during Crean’s tenure in Bloomington, is the guy who could return IU to national prominence—more than he already has—and make Crean a rock star with recruits—more than he already is.

In his three years on the court, Oladipo has helped take the Hoosiers from the cellar to the Big Ten title, from national laughingstock to NCAA powerhouse.

But as much as the young man from Maryland has done for the school wearing the Indiana jersey, he has the chance to do even more for the glory of old IU—much more—if he becomes a success at the next level.

The sooner Oladipo gets on solid footing in the NBA—assuming he does—the sooner Crean and his assistants can point to him as an example of what they can do for other high school recruits.

Imagine the power of Crean and his assistants as they point to Oladipo, telling recruits’ parents, “We can do for your son what we did for him.”

Being the stand-up guy he is, Oladipo is likely to thank and credit Crean and IU at every turn. In fact, he already has. At Tuesday’s press conference announcing he is entering the upcoming NBA draft, Oladipo was effusive in his praise of Crean and IU assistant coaches, crediting them for believing in him when “no one else” did and developing him beyond what anyone else thought possible.

That’s the most powerful kind of recruiting message there is.

But he didn’t stop there.

“I would tell [recruits] to come to Indiana because it’s the perfect place if you want to grow as a person, as a player, as a human being,” he said. “If you want to do those things, this is the place for you.”

That’s a powerful endorsement, especially if it’s coming from an established NBA player. Those words gain even more gravity if they’re coming from an NBA all-star.

While Crean can point to Dwyane Wade, whom he coached at Marquette, there’s really no comparison between the NBA all-star and Oladipo. At least not when you consider the way each entered college.

While Wade was recruited by only a handful of schools due to academic issues, his basketball prowess was unquestioned. Wade averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds per game during his senior year in high school.

Oladipo, on the other hand, truly was the cornerstone many builders rejected. He was lightly recruited out of high school, where he averaged 11.9 points and 10.3 rebounds as a senior at DeMatha High School.

In Oladipo, Crean has a guy he can claim he helped make, a raw talent he molded and sculpted into an NBA lottery pick. Though Crean has his detractors at IU, it’s difficult to argue how much Oladipo has grown under his tutelage.

Even Oladipo’s high school coach, Mike Jones, said he was amazed at his former player’s development during his time in Bloomington.

I’m not saying Crean should take all the credit for Oladipo’s success. It should be noted that Oladipo’s tireless work ethic and self-motivation were big components in his development during three years in Bloomington. And he’s certainly not without God-given talent.

But Crean will—and should—take his fair share of the credit, to keep the Hoosier hysteria flying high.

This is no one-and-done story. No one would confuse Oladipo with one of the fantastic freshmen who motored Kentucky to the 2012 NCAA championship, then jumped to the NBA.

Oladipo’s is the story of a player with little financial earning power who was chiseled into a professional cager worth millions. While it could be debated who deserves credit for what, there is no debating the finances.

Two years ago, no one would have paid Oladipo six figures a year. I’m not sure he would have been given an NBA D-League roster spot. Twelve months ago, there isn’t an NBA general manager who would have dreamed of paying him anywhere near $1 million annually.  

Even early this year, Oladipo was projected as an early second-round pick. His rise under Crean has no doubt opened the door to NBA riches and much greater job security. Remember, only NBA first-round picks get guaranteed contracts.

Ponder for a moment the difference between the salary of a high first- and second-round draft pick. The fifth pick of last year’s second round, Michigan State’s Draymond Green, has a base salary of $850,000. That won’t go up much for the upcoming draft.

If Oladipo is the eighth overall pick of this summer’s NBA draft—and most prognosticators think he will go no later than that, he will earn a guaranteed base salary of $2.65 million in 2013 and $2.77 million in 2014, based on the NBA’s rookie pay scale. If he jumps three or four more slots, he’ll make at least $3 million for his rookie season alone.

It doesn’t take an IU economics degree to calculate the value of Oladipo’s development.

And that’s the type of windfall that could make it rain basketball recruits in Bloomington for years to come.

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