Kenny Johnson and Keith Stevens, the coaches of Team Takeover, a D.C.-based AAU squad, had seen many of the same qualities in the previous spring's tryouts. "Mike Jones told me he had this kid who was a little raw, but he had some potential," says Stevens. "He was a run-and-jump, high-motor kid, really raw. A lot of those kids don't develop, but Victor put in the time." Playing AAU involved complex travel arrangements, whereby Victor often spent weekends at his coaches' homes, because it was such a long drive to his house.
As a junior Victor was part of a DeMatha powerhouse that included Quinn Cook (Duke), Josh Selby (drafted by the Grizzlies, now in the NBDL), Jerian Grant (Notre Dame), Mikael Hopkins (Georgetown), Marcus Rouse (Stony Brook) and Naji Hibbert (Gardner-Webb, transferred from Texas A&M). "Victor is that rare guy who played on a high school team that was as good as his AAU team," says Crean. Early in the season, says Jones, Victor stood in front of the team's top players and volunteered to come off the bench. DeMatha went 31--4 and won the city championship. A year later Victor started and averaged 11.9 points and 10.3 rebounds; DeMatha went 32--4 and won another city title. Victor was named All-City but was ranked only No. 144 in the country by Rivals.com.
"At that time his motor, his passion for the game, his athletic ability were all ahead of his skill set," says Chris Caputo, an assistant at Miami, who was an assistant at George Mason at the time and saw Victor frequently. "Not a great dribbler, not a great shooter, not a dynamic pick-and-roll guy. But he was a tough guy who could defend and do whatever it took to win. His other qualities were developing. Those were things Coach Crean was able to identify that others were not." By the end several D-I schools were recruiting Victor, including Notre Dame, Xavier and Charlotte, but none had worked longer than Indiana.
It was in Victor's senior year that the unusual nature of his relationship with his father was first publicized. In a story by Josh Barr in The Washington Post in April 2010, Victor said that his father had never seen him play. "I would love for him to want to see me play," Victor told Barr. "I want to show him how good I've become." Chris Oladipo told the Post that he had, in fact, seen his son play but had not made his presence known, so as not to put extra pressure on Victor. The story also describes an incident in which Chris tried to get Victor to skip AAU basketball one year to study martial arts in China, but Victor was talked out of it by coaches and relatives.
In early March, Victor told SI that he and Chris were "not as close as a dad and son should be. Because, growing up, he just wasn't there. My parents' culture is all about tough love. You love someone, but you're not going to show them affection. You know, like in the movie 300, when Leonidas goes away and doesn't want to tell his wife he loves her, because that would show weakness? That's what my father was like. He's not going to show affection. It's kind of like: Life isn't easy. If you show weakness, people will attack it."
Kristine Oladipo remembers a similar mind-set. She says, "At the end of the day our father was probably too overprotective. He always warned us not to have too many friends, not to get too close to people. I wasn't allowed to go to friends' houses or to parties. But he also stressed that hard work pays off in the end, and I believe that's been good for me."
Mike Jones often met Chris during drop-offs. "I would describe him as focused," says Jones. "There was no small talk."
Joan Oladipo went to nursing school and earned her degree in 1998; she now works at Baltimore-Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, Md. Despite her job, she attended most of Victor's high school games and some college games, including last weekend's Big Ten tournament in Chicago. "I know Victor really missed that his father wasn't at his games," says Joan. "He would like to have had both parents there. I do believe he has gotten over that."
Asked if Chris would agree to an interview, Joan says, "The chances of that, I think, are zero."
Yet Chris does speak. Not, he says, because he wants a piece of his son's fame—"Please, no limelight for me"—but because he wants to explain that he is proud of his son but different from most other fathers, fearful and mistrusting of the world. "I am not the typical American father who is shouting in the bleachers," he says. "I will never be an American dad. I believe what the father should be is an anchor, to keep the ship from running away. He should be a stabilizing influence in the child's life. I am humbled by Victor's success, but he is no longer just my son, he is everyone's son."