While in Johannesburg for the NBA Africa Game 2017, Pacers guard Victor Oladipo took some time to speak to reporters by phone about his participation in the event, his connection to Africa, and his thoughts about the upcoming NBA season.
Oladipo, whose parents were both born in Nigeria and immigrated to the United States in the 1980s, grew up with an intimate connection to Nigeria and the continent of Africa as a whole.
“I’m a first-generation Nigerian-American and I pretty much know a lot about the culture. I grew up on it, grew up listening to the language, the music, eating the food, things like that. So I’m very familiar with it,” said Oladipo of his upbringing.
But despite being raised so close to the culture, Oladipo’s trip to South Africa as part of Basketball without Borders (BWB) Africa marks the first time he’s travelled to to the continent, something he’s long been waiting to do.
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“Growing up it was hard, we really didn’t have the means to go,” he explained.
While in South Africa for the week leading up to Saturday’s NBA Africa Game 2017 (11:00 AM EST, airing on ESPN2), Oladipo has taken part in a number of clinics, teaching locals the fundamentals of basketball for younger players as well as more advanced techniques for older students of the game.
Oladipo stressed the importance that the camps can have, noting that both Joel Embiid and Gorgui Dieng attended them before becoming notable college and pro players.
“That just shows you right there the impact that us coming here may have on some of these players here that could eventually be playing with us one day,” Oladipo said. “So it’s all a blessing to be able to come here and impact lives like that.”
When asked what has stood out most about his trip to date, Oladipo was quick to mention his visit to the Nelson Mandela Museum, which tells the life story of Mandela, the first democratically elected president in post-apartheid South Africa and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Seeing his history and all he had to do and all he went through,” said Oladipo of the experience. “What he stood for, that was definitely moving and something memorable. Something I’ll never forget.”
Oladipo on the Upcoming Season
Although Oladipo has spent the week focusing on the marquee Team Africa vs Team World meeting on Saturday, the 2017-18 NBA Season is quickly approaching, and in his first year with the Pacers, Oladipo’s excitement has been building.
“It’s great, being able to come back to my second home, going back to where I went to college for three years, I’m very familiar with the fans and with a lot of people there, so to be able to go back and compete in front of those people and win for them is going to be a great experience and I’m looking forward to it,” Oladipo said.
Oladipo also voiced excitement about getting to showcase the Pacers’ new uniforms, which were unveiled last Friday at the River West StreetFest.
“I’m looking forward to playing in them, they look awesome,” he said. “I’m looking forward to putting it on and competing in it with my teammates. The Nike changeover with the new year I think is going to be good for them.”
Off the Pacers’ court, Oladipo hopes to get a chance to head south to check out an Indiana University game at Assembly Hall, something he’s yet to get a chance to do since leaving IU after three seasons.
“I’m looking forward to going back on campus, and one thing I always wanted to do was go back and watch a game at Assembly, I never got an opportunity to do that. Some of my teammates have. Cody (Zeller) has, Christian Watford has, Jordan (Hulls) has, I’ve never had an opportunity to go back and watch an actual game at Assembly Hall. So that’s one thing I gotta mark of my list that I really want to do.”