Center of Attention

Oct. 21, 2013

IOWA CITY, Iowa — As the University of Iowa men’s basketball team continues its preseason training, two Hawkeyes that have impressed UI head coach Fran McCaffery are centers Adam Woodbury and Gabriel Olaseni.

Having practices that are intense and competitive is what any coach wants. McCaffery likes the competition and believes the team’s frontcourt has become a position of strength for the Hawkeyes.

“The two of them go at each other in practice and have consistently made each other better,” said McCaffery.

Having a productive frontcourt resulted in success a year ago. Last season, when Woodbury and Olaseni combined to score 10 or more points, the Hawkeyes were 9-1, including a 4-0 record when combining to post a double-double. The twin towers combined to average 7.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and block 35 percent of the team’s shots last season.

“We have both worked hard this summer, and I feel like we can improve on those numbers dramatically,” said Olaseni.

McCaffery says he won’t hesitate to play both Woodbury and Olaseni at the same time this season.

“We’ve done it in practice, and we did it overseas,” said the fourth-year UI head coach.

“I feel like we can be a force playing at the same time,” said Olaseni. “We’re good at setting screens, and we’re athletic and can get out in the open court causing the defense to be off-balance.”

If and when the two centers play at the same time, Olaseni will be playing the power forward position and Woodbury at center. The London native says playing the four has its challenges defensively.

“You have to work harder on defense because a lot of the fours can shoot jumpers, as opposed to playing with their backs to the basket,” said Olaseni. “I’m up to the challenge and the coaching staff believes in me.”

McCaffery has been impressed with the strides that the youthful tandem has made.

“Woodbury has been our most impressive player since the first day of practice,” said McCaffery. “He’s hungry, in phenomenal shape, has been incredibly consistent, and I’m thrilled with his development. But the same could be said for Gabe.

“He was really good overseas and had a phenomenal summer. Gabe’s a completely different player than when he first got here. He’s comfortable now in what’s expected of him and what he’s capable of doing.”

Woodbury says the daily competition with Olaseni has made him who he is today and hopes he has done the same.

“I have to bring it every day because he’s an athletic animal out there and I know if I don’t bring it, he’s going to embarrass me that day in practice,” said Woodbury. “It gets me excited to play at my best every day.”

“I always need to bring my A-game because I know he’s going to bring his,” Olaseni said. “We’re always challenging each other and trying to make our teammates better.”

UI assistant coach Andrew Francis, who works with the frontcourt players in practice, said having two bigs that the coaching staff can rely on at any time during a game is a big bonus.

“It’s a great luxury to have two centers that can play with each other and sub for each other,” said Francis. “They genuinely like to play with and against each other. It’s been fun to watch their development the past year.”

The UI men’s and women’s basketball teams will make their first public appearances at the Black and Gold Blowout on Oct. 25 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at 8 p.m. (CT). Tickets are only $5 for adults and free for UI students and youth.