Olaseni brings British sensibilities to Iowa City

BY KYLE HUGHES | JUNE 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa freshman Gabe Olaseni was on the soccer field when he first realized he wanted to take basketball seriously.

Olaseni, a 6-10 post player from London, was 15 when he said a bad soccer experience led to an epiphany.

“I was playing goalie, and I dove for a ball and ended up in mud,” he said. “I looked up and saw some guys dunking a ball. I thought I might as well try that. I fell in love with it ever since.”

The forward said he is thankful for the opportunity that basketball has given him, and Iowa assistant coach Andrew Francis said the team is glad to have him as well. Olaseni’s size, athleticism, and defensive skills are an asset to an Iowa frontcourt that found itself shorthanded after the graduation of Jarryd Cole.

“I think we got a quality young man and a good basketball player in Gabe,” Francis said. “Right now, his strongest attributes are his athleticism, [and] his ability to rebound [and] run the floor — and defensively.”

Those abilities will likely be enough to earn Olaseni playing time right away for a Hawkeye team that finished eighth in the Big Ten in blocks and last in defensive rebounds last season.

“He can really affect the game with his defensive prowess,” Francis said. “Changing shots, blocking shots, being a presence in the middle. That’s the way he can affect us immediately as a freshman.”

Iowa point guard and Prime Time League teammate Bryce Cartwright agreed.

“He brings one of the key ingredients to winning,” Cartwright said. “His offense will come along, but we really need his defensive presence [right now]. Defense wins games and championships.”

Because he has only been playing basketball for a few years, Olaseni’s offensive game is still a work in progress — he’s averaging fewer than 4 points per game in Prime Time this summer.

However, with a 7-2 wingspan and good athleticism, he has the potential to become an impact player on both ends of the floor. Francis said he thinks Olaseni’s exceptional work ethic and character will help the young player make the transition to an offensive powerhouse as well.

“Honestly, [Gabe] has to be one of the most respectable young men I’ve ever recruited,” Francis said. “His character really impressed me as I got to know him. Those are the young guys that you want to be a part of your program.”

Olaseni may be a very respectful person, but he said he isn’t afraid to joke around with his teammates.

“Sometimes [my teammates] make fun of my accent, but I make fun of their accents as well,” Olaseni said. “We have jokes together, just getting to know each other.”

“It goes both ways,” Cartwright said. “He’s from across the ocean, so of course he’s going to think we sound funny — but he’s on our soil, so we get on him all the time … he’s been fitting in well. We’ve had a lot of fun together so far.”

Olaseni, in his second year living in the U.S., said he considers his teammates his family now.

“I didn’t think when I first picked up a basketball, I’d be in Iowa City going to play Big Ten basketball,” Olaseni said. “It’s been a great opportunity. I’m going to have to make the most of it.”

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