IOWA CITY, Ia. — Gabe Olaseni pondered the question.
“That’s a tough one,” Iowa’s backup center said.
Which do you get the biggest kick out of, a dunk or a blocked shot?
“Blocking a shot, so you can look at the guy afterwards,” Olaseni said.
That is how the soft-spoken 6-foot-10 sophomore from London does his trash talking.
“I don’t say too much,” Olaseni said. “I pretty much look at him.”
Olaseni has blocked 16 shots heading into today’s final nonconference game, a noon date with Coppin State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Only Melsahn Basabe has more, with 17 rejections in 204 minutes. Olaseni has played 100 minutes.
“Melsahn’s always in my ear in practice to dunk everything,” Olaseni said. “He’s harder on me than the coaches. He always wants more. I’ll run the floor and get a dunk, then run back and get a block, and he’s still screaming in my ear. Sometimes it’s annoying. But he always takes me to one side and explains it to me. So it’s always good.”
Potential has chased Olaseni ever since Iowa coach Fran McCaffery signed him out of Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas. Olaseni’s length and athletic ability are a shot blocker’s gift.
He played a career-high 19 minutes against South Carolina State on Wednesday, finishing with a career-best 10 rebounds, six points and four blocks. One of those blocks came in the second half when he ran down a South Carolina State player from behind.
“That was one of the most incredible plays I’ve seen in a long time,” McCaffery said.
McCaffery is pleased with the progress of Olaseni, who played little basketball in his native England.
“He is so explosive athletically, and at that size he can be really effective for us because the other thing is, he can score,” McCaffery said. “He’s not just a run and jump and hammer guy. He can get the ball in the basket, he can make a baseline jumper, he makes his free throws (12-for-12 this season). He can tip balls for you, and he’s taking care of the b
asketball, so I’m thrilled with him.”
Olaseni has a penchant for fretting over mistakes and worrying about the details, instead of relying on his athleticism and playing through his miscues.
“He played really well (against South Carolina State) with three or four blocked shots, some rebounds and some scoring,” teammate Devyn Marble said. “That’s what we need out of him, just to grow his confidence and keep him rolling, keep him comfortable. Sometimes, he plays a little tentative.”
Olaseni also had four points, four rebounds and two blocked shots against Northern Iowa a week ago. Carrying things over, from the practice court to a real game, has been another challenge.
“That’s something I’ve focused on,” said Olaseni, who has been told to learn the power forward position as well as the post. “I’m trying to translate it all, be the energy guy and help my teammates any way I can. It doesn’t have to be scoring. But it certainly has to be defense.”
SATURDAY'S IOWA MEN’S GAME
WHO: Coppin State (3-9) at Iowa (10-2)
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City
TICKETS: $14 adults, $5 youth (18-under) and UI students
TELEVISION: Big Ten Network
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040) and Hawkeye Radio Network
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: Josh Oglesby, who missed the South Carolina State game with spasms in his upper back, was cleared to return to practice Friday and will be a game-time decision today.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Murray, who is just 6-foot-5, has had 10 or more rebounds in nine of Coppin State’s past 10 games.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball