Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery sees bigger role for Gabe Olaseni

6-foot-10 freshman from London made big strides this year

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IOWA CITY — Freshman Gabe Olaseni played in barely half of Iowa’s men’s basketball games this year, but Coach Fran McCaffery sees Olaseni as a major contributor for the Hawkeyes in the future.

Olaseni, a 6-foot-10 freshman from London, England, saw action in 18 games and averaged just five minutes per game. He gradually picked up more playing time late in the season. In the Big Ten Tournament, Olaseni played three minutes against Illinois and six against Michigan State. He played three minutes in the season-ending loss to Oregon in the National Invitation Tournament.

“Gabe Olaseni has really developed,” McCaffery said. “He’s really developed, and I think he’s going to be tremendous here. There are flashes of it, you can see it in practice. He’s so much further ahead.

“For him, it’s a big learning curve. He’s got the skill set. He’s got the talent. He’s got the athletic ability. He’s just got to figure it out at this level. He’s really come a long way.”

Olaseni, 20, grew up in London, England and played prep school basketball at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kan. He scored 10.3 points a game to help Sunrise earn the National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) national title in 2011.

Olaseni was considered a developmental athlete when he came to Iowa. He said it took a while before he felt like he could fit in on the court.

“It was a pretty hard experience,” Olaseni said with his thick British accent. “Obviously it wasn’t much of a culture shock because I’ve been through the American system, but just the whole college experience and the basketball as well. Learning new plays, fundamentals, just going back to the basics really.

“Midway through the season I felt like I was really picking up. I was running plays like seamlessly, making the right play, making the extra pass. So I think I’ve come a long way this year. I’m just looking forward to the next few years.”

Olaseni saw spotty action in Iowa’s non-conference season. Twice he scored eight points in a game — against Chicago State and Central Arkansas. His best statistical Big Ten game was against Michigan State, when he scored four points and grabbed two rebounds with a blocked shot. He averaged 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds a game.

“It’s been pretty good playing here and there,” Olaseni said. “The coaches just told me to keep working and stay active whenever I get a chance to get in there just do the things I do like block shots, rebound, and finish around the rim.”

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