NORTH LIBERTY — Gabe Olaseni will head back to jolly old England on August 3, just in time to see his home nation host the Summer Olympics.
Olaseni, a London native and a sophomore center on the Iowa men’s basketball team, hopes to take in a Great Britain men’s basketball game this year. In four years, he’s hopes to compete in the Olympics for the British crown.
“That will be a real fun experience,” Olaseni said. “I want to play in the Olympics some day. It all depends on my college schedule, what happens after I finish college. Everyone wants to represent my country so if I get the opportunity, I’ll take it.”
Olaseni, 20, has a ways to go before he’s ready to compete internationally. But he’s made enough strides this off-season to become a valuable contributor for Iowa next season.
At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Olaseni has the size necessary to play center and his athletic ability sets him apart. He’s one of the team’s fastest players and can out-jump just about anyone. He’s quick in the post and active defensively. But he has limited experience playing basketball and he’s a raw athlete.
“He only played four years before he came over here,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “His learning curve is going to be a little more rapid. The only thing left for him now is to do it when the TV lights come on. I have no doubt he’s going to be a really good player for us. He can run, he can block shots. He can score. He’s a tremendous athlete.”
Last year Olaseni played in 18 of Iowa’s 35 games. He averaged 1.4 points and 1.2 rebounds a game and blocked eight shots in a limited role. Olaseni progressed throughout the year, and he felt more comfortable on the court.
“My confidence has improved a lot along with my understanding of the game, like double teams, flare screens, how to set screens …,” Olaseni said. “I think just my understanding and confidence has improved. My body is just getting stronger, and I’m able to jump higher and just finish with contact.
“I think halfway through the season I was running plays seamlessly and making an extra pass, an extra play and just being able to help my teammates in more than just blocking shots and rebounding. I really started to see improvement and help with some of the big guys that we have.”
Olaseni likely will back up incoming freshman Adam Woodbury at center, but Olaseni’s minutes should at least double from last year’s 5-minute average. He’s excited about an increased role next season.
“Before I had to think of everything,” he said. “Right foot goes here, left foot goes there. But now it’s like second nature. I remember all the plays from last year. I’m just ready to show the coaching staff the difference I’m making.”
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