Few names in the state of Indiana ring out as loud as Victor Oladipo’s.
His legacy in Indianapolis began when he became a Hoosier in 2010 after joining the Indiana University men’s basketball team as a freshman. Now, in the midst of his second season as a member of the Indiana Pacers, Oladipo is surpassing expectations and is on the road to earning his first NBA All-Star selection.
On Monday, November 12 — during one of his rare days off — Oladipo provided a day to remember for the students and staff of Francis W. Parker School 56 when he stopped by.
More than 150 fourth- through eighth-grade students gathered in the gymnasium, anxiously waiting for the star guard to enter as Principal Christine Rembert and their school’s Athletic Director, Dirk Ratcliff, gave opening remarks.
Cheers filled the gym the moment the First Team All-American stepped inside. Oladipo immediately connected with students, giving high-fives and shaking hands before even taking his coat off. The excited students remained tuned in as their guest used his personal story to encourage them to work through their circumstances and give their best effort in the classroom and in anything they want to succeed in.
Oladipo’s words engaged the students as he spoke about his difficulties at home, being bullied, and how students can work to overcome obstacles.
“I knew that in order to take the next step, going from good to great, I had to work on my mind,” said Oladipo. “Your mind is a muscle; you have to work on it every day. Some people aren’t mentally strong enough to take that next step. Are you? You guys can change the world, even right now at your age.”
Following his empowering speech, the 2018 NBA’s Most Improved Player gave thoughtful answers to a number of questions that students had prepared for him, including the differences between playing in college and the NBA, and what food does he refuse to eat (pickles). Of course, he couldn’t leave before getting a few shots up as he took on several students and Ratcliff in three-point contests.
Students weren’t the only ones excited to meet the NBA star, as Oladipo stayed around for selfies and autographs with several staff members.
This visit marks the beginning of a developing partnership between Oladipo and IPS.
Darren Thomas, IPS interim district athletic director, had been working with Oladipo and his representatives to bring this event to fruition.
“Oladipo just naturally has a heart for giving back to the community, and he knows that it starts with the youth,” said Thomas. “This wasn’t something that we had to beg him to do. … For someone of his stature to do this means a lot to our students and his words will stay with them as they move forward.”