Feb. 8, 2014
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Junior Gabriel Olaseni is trying to keep things simple when he’s on the court for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team. The modest approach is paying dividends.
Olaseni has reached double digits in four of the Hawkeyes’ last six games, which includes a pair of double-doubles — his third and fourth of the season. The four double-doubles are tied for the most among reserves nationally.
“I try not to overthink things, just be a player,” said Olaseni, who is averaging 9.8 points and 6.8 rebounds during the stretch. “I am trying not to be too robotic. I am trying to let the game come to me and make plays.”
“It doesn’t matter if I am playing 10 or 25 minutes, as long as I am in there making plays and helping the team win, that’s all that really matters.”
UI junior Gabriel Olaseni
Olaseni’s production and skill set doesn’t surprise UI head coach Fran McCaffery because the 6-foot-10 center was a workout wonder when McCaffery first saw him at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas.
“When we first saw him, he played as well as any player that ever played in a workout that I attended,” said McCaffery. “There is a big difference playing in an open gym and a Big Ten game. It doesn’t always translate. We knew it would take a little time with him due to his background.”
Olaseni played sparingly as a freshman before appearing in 37 games and averaging 2.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 10 minutes a game as a sophomore.
“My freshman year, I knew what to do, but I couldn’t execute,” he said. “Now I know everything there is to know about our offensive and defensive schemes. It’s about reacting.”
This season Olaseni’s minutes are up five minutes per game, and his production has peaked to 6.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per contest. Olaseni has heard the chatter questioning his playing time.
“I’ve heard a lot of things, but if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “We’re playing well right now and everyone is playing well in their roles. It doesn’t matter if I am playing 10 or 25 minutes, as long as I am in there making plays and helping the team win, that’s all that really matters.”
Olaseni prides himself on being active and using his athleticism to sprint up-and-down the court.
“You don’t do anything standing around,” he said. “I feel like if I run the floor something good is going to happen, whether it is drawing in the defense, then we get wide-open 3-point shots. By continuously running the floor, it helps me and my teammates.”
McCaffery says this is just the tip of the iceberg for Olaseni.
“His freshman year was up and down, he was a good player for us last year, and he’s better this year,” said McCaffery. “He’s still not where he’s going to end up either. He’s going to be better next year.”
Olaseni tries not to think about how far he’s come since arriving on campus.
“When they started recruiting me, they said it wouldn’t be an overnight thing, it would be a continual process,” he said. “I am happy I am playing well now, and hopefully it will continue.”