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home : sports : local sports August 17, 2017

8/4/2017 1:45:00 PM
Chris Denari and Victor Oladipo are 'home'
Chris Denari

It's amazing what hopes and dreams and life can bring you in a 40-year time span. And it's all happened for this kid who graduated from Westfield High School in 1979.

When I moved to Westfield in the summer of 1977, and I wasn't at the gym playing pick-up basketball and getting ready for the upcoming high school season, I was in my room playing tabletop NBA basketball card games and broadcasting them into a tape recorder. Now it's 2017 and I'm in Johannesburg, South Africa. I'm preparing to broadcast a real NBA game to 200 countries and millions of people around the world.

For the second time in three years, I have made the journey to Africa to participate in the NBA Africa Game. It features 22 NBA players split into Team World and Team Africa. My Indiana Pacers TV/FOX Sports Indiana partner Quinn Buckner and I were here for the first game in 2015. This year's game features 20-year veteran Dirk Nowitzki, the NBA's 6th all-time leading scorer. Five other former All-Stars dot the rosters, and the Pacers' newest fan favorite, Victor Oladipo, will play for Team Africa.

I think most people know Victor's story. Parents come to the United States from Nigeria; becomes a top high school basketball player in Washington D.C.; heads to Indiana University where he earns numerous Big Ten and All-American honors; is the number two pick in the 2013 NBA Draft; is one-half of the trade that sends Paul George to Oklahoma City and brings Victor "back home."

Yes, when you talk to Victor, he is back home. He owes a lot to Indiana University, and is so excited to have the chance to play for his "home" NBA team. I've had the chance to be around Victor the past few days in South Africa, and I can tell you he can't wait to put on his Pacers jersey for the first time. He is hungry to prove the national critics wrong. Many have panned what Indiana got in return for George. I believe when all is said and done, the Pacers will have done just fine, and Victor will be a part of a core that will lead Indiana back toward the top of the Eastern Conference.

While Victor is back home, I'm proud to say I've never left. This will be season 12 for me as the television voice of the Pacers, and I can't wait to get started. Hamilton County is where I make my home, and living in Carmel, I don't live too far away from my parents' house in Westfield. I truly enjoy seeing so many people I know each and every night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The season is really not all that far away. But first, I'll get my tune-up in. And yes, this kid doesn't have to pretend to broadcast an NBA game into a tape recorder. I'll get to do it in South Africa, with the whole wide world watching on television.

Chris Denari is a television play-by-play announcer for the Indiana Pacers and the Indiana Fever.

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