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Iowa’s Olaseni learns to relax and react

BY TORK MASON | DECEMBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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Hawkeye men’s basketball fans saw the “real” Gabe Olaseni in Iowa’s 87-63 victory over South Dakota on Tuesday night.

The sophomore’s performances in practice were among the team’s preseason story lines this year, and head coach Fran McCaffery expected Olaseni to play a significant role this season. But the London native couldn’t settle down through the team’s first eight games and struggled to contribute.

That changed against the Coyotes, when Olaseni posted 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks in just 11 minutes of action in the second half. Sophomore Aaron White said his teammate just needed to get more accustomed to being on the floor.

“I’m really proud of him; that’s my guy,” White said with a smile. “A guy like him, he’s playing so well in practice. He’s had some great practices; he’s got all the talent in the world, he just needs to get comfortable being on the floor and under the bright lights.”

White said Tuesday was the first night where Olaseni looked comfortable, and he was pleased with the results. He praised Olaseni’s discipline on shot fakes and how he stayed on the floor instead of leaving his feet and collecting unnecessary fouls.

If Olaseni can continue to bring the kind of energy and efficiency he brought against the Coyotes, White said, he could “drastically change the game.”

That Olaseni didn’t play at all in the first half was something that concerned McCaffery a little when he decided to put the sophomore in the game.

“I was worried about that, because I really would have liked to get him in in the first half,” McCaffery said. “A lot of times he’s been sitting for so long, he’s bound to be a little bit nervous or jumpy.”

Olaseni got the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd energized with an emphatic two-handed dunk late in the second half. Junior Devyn Marble said the team could use a little more of that, noting that it’s a matter of Olaseni being more assertive.

“I was impressed with his dunk today,” Marble said. “He can dunk literally anything he wants to. He’s just got to get into that mindset.”

White said positive momentum has always been important for Olaseni, and getting things rolling early was critical in Tuesday’s performance.

“What happened was he got in there, and something went well for him right away,” White said. “He got that offensive rebound, made a good pass, and then got a bucket the next time down. And for someone like him, when something good happens, it gets his confidence up.”

Olaseni makes great plays in practice, White said, but he often lets his mistakes weigh too heavily on him and it brings down his performance. That’s something he said the coaches have been trying to help him past, but White said it’s ultimately on Olaseni to realize what he’s capable of.

“He’s a great player, but he’s got to know that,” White said. “He’s got to play with that confidence.”


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