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Keep an eye on Olaseni

[ 1 ] December 21, 2011 |

Iowa freshman Gabe Olaseni

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Shortly after practice started this season, one of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery’s assistants pointed to Gabe Olaseni and said, “Keep an eye on that kid. I think he’s going to be pretty special.”

During the early weeks of practice, McCaffery said that Olaseni was the team’s leading rebounder. But once the real games started, he’s not logged a lot of playing time.

There are several reasons. One, Olaseni is not a born-and-bred basketball player. Growing up in London, England, he is relatively new to the game. He got some experience last season at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas.

He stands 6-feet-10, but weighs just 220 pounds. So he’s got to get bigger and stronger to survive in the Big Ten. He also has a lot of catching up to do on the offensive end of the floor.

But his potential is obvious. McCaffery sees a player who could be the eraser he needs at the back of his full-court press. He sees a shotblocker and rebounder who can be a good offensive option in the future as well.

Sometimes, that potential peaks out from the clouds. Like in Monday’s 105-64 victory against Central Arkansas.

Olaseni had played in just six games entering play Monday, totaling 10 points and 11 rebounds in 35 college minutes. But against Central Arkansas, Gabe made the most of his 9 minutes. He scored eight points on four of five shooting from the field. He also blocked a team-high three shots and had two rebounds. His time on the court included an impressive one-handed catch and dunk.

“He’s really coming,”McCaffery said. “He’s been doing it in practice. I really regretted not getting him in (against Drake last Saturday).”

Olaseni looks like a deer in headlights when he first checks in, not quite comfortable with his surroundings. But his production increases as he gets more and more minutes.

“You see when I first put him in, it takes him a little time to get settled down, and once he settled down, he impacts the game,” McCaffery said.

McCaffery said that Olaseni accepts coaching, he works hard and he has a chance to be special.

“He hasn’t played as much basketball as Devyn Marble and some of the other guys, Matt Gatens,” McCaffery said. “He just hasn’t. Everything is coming 100 miles an hour hitting him right in the face, and he just has to settle down and we have to coach him up and be careful when we yell at him, and how much we yell at him.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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