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IOWA HAWKEYES PLAYER PREVIEWS: GABRIEL OLASENI

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Great big man? Or Great Brit-ain? No? OK, I'll do better in the story.

Matthew Holst

Gabriel Olaseni

Bio: Senior, 6'10, 237 lbs. (London, UK)
Last season: 16.7 minutes per game, 6.5 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, team-high 1.3 blocks per game

What we saw last season: The rapid maturation of Olaseni continued apace in 2013-14, as British Airways (or London Balling, whichever you prefer) increased his minutes from 11 to 17 a game, added a surprisingly competent mid-range jumper to his game and developed into one of the best offensive rebounders in college basketball (no, really; he gobbled up a ridiculous 16.8% of misses while on the court last year, good for sixth-best in the nation). At times, Olaseni looked like the best player on the floor (necessary qualifier: Olaseni spent most of his minutes with the second unit), which is a refreshing development from potential to performance. Olaseni also hit 73% of his free throws, so any Hack-A-Chap strategies were effectively thwarted from the get-go.

It was especially nice to see because fellow big man Adam Woodbury struggled mightily with consistency last year, especially in the first half of the season. Olaseni essentially outplayed Woodbury, though Woody remained the starter and will probably do so this year as well.

What we need to see this season: This is it for Olaseni, who enters his senior campaign in Iowa City on as much of an upward slant as anybody on the team. His size and athleticism are unimpeachable. Some of the worst teams on Iowa's schedule will have no answer for Olaseni's game. He's still behind Woodbury on the depth chart at the five, but Fran McCaffery was unequivocal about using Olaseni more this season—but because of the losses at the four:

Following the graduation of forwards Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe, McCaffery sees Olaseni's role increasing as a senior. McCaffery believes Olaseni has double-double potential.

"He is going to be an incredibly impactful player," said McCaffery. "You're going to see him get a lot more minutes. You saw his numbers improve last year, and you'll see them improve again."

The raw numbers will (or should, certainly) go up with increased minutes. If Iowa's going to be better, though, Olaseni needs to take another step up in efficiency. That means hitting more than 50% of his two-pointers, getting his block rate back up to the 2012-13 area of ~10% and getting to the line more frequently. The difference between Olaseni the backup center and Olaseni the indispensable big man is how well he can replace what the team loses from Basabe, and that's continued defensive energy, strong rebounding and a defense-stretching mid-range jumper.

Olaseni is far and away the better option at center in the up-tempo, open court game (and make no mistake, Woodbury can run), so if Iowa keeps playing the fastest ball in the Big Ten Olaseni should be a beneficiary. Also his dunks are fun.

Best case scenario: Olaseni develops into his final form, a 4/5 hybrid who can dominate smaller defenders and take bigger ones out of their comfort zone with a face-to-the-bucket game from 15 feet out. He averages a double-double in roughly 25 minutes a game and draws attention from some NBA scouts as sort of a "Baby Ibaka."

Most likely scenario: Most of Olaseni's action still comes from spelling Woodbury, but he still sees some spot duty in the "twin towers" lineup as McCaffery tries to work mismatches into his lineup. We're closer to 8 points, 7 boards and 1.5 blocks per game for the

One request: If Olaseni is really going to assert his value on the team, he'll develop a two-man offensive game with the point guard, either Mike Gesell or Trey Dickerson. He can call it the

the

wait for it

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the Piccadilly and Roll.