Oct. 9, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa men's basketball team will hold its annual media day on Thursday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, signifying the start of the 2012-13 season.
The anticipation and excitement surrounding the UI basketball program has not been this high in years. Sophomore Gabriel Olaseni shares that enthusiasm for the coming season.
"I'm pumped," said the 6-foot-10 center. "The team approach is the same. Within our camp, we have a lot to improve, but we have the dedication. Everyone is always in the gym. There are going to be bright years ahead."
Olaseni's eagerness for the upcoming campaign was heightened by a trip home this summer: a trip home to the Olympics.
The London, England, native enjoyed special time with friends and family, and enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I had a lot of pride," said Olaseni. "That is where I was born and raised. I never once dreamed the Olympics would take place 20 minutes from my house. Actually being there on my home soil, it was special.
"I am glad I experienced it. The entire country was behind each other. Everyone had a smile on their face."
The trip provided a new perspective for Olaseni, in a number of different areas.
"I attended field hockey, gymnastics and a men's basketball game between Brazil and Russia," said Olaseni. "It was a fun experience. I had never watched field hockey before. I am going to try and catch a few Iowa matches this fall. That is another thing that happened... at the Olympics I realized there are so many other great sports. Basketball is the game I love, but I am going to try and make it to a number of other events."
"It was crazy," he said about the atmosphere in London. "All the countries were split up, but at the same time, after the game, they were cheering for each other. In the USA versus New Zealand field hockey match, half the stadium was in black, the other in red, white and blue. Everyone was separated because they wanted their countries to do well, but at the same time, everyone knew what it meant to be at the Olympics. Everyone was reaching for the same goals. It was very interesting to see all the cultures fuse together."
A light went off for Olaseni; the Olympics showed what it takes to perform at the highest level and the dedication required to get there.
"It was a great experience to see professional athletes train hard for four years for that one moment," said Olaseni, who played in 18 games as a freshman. "It was interesting to see what it takes to be a professional and the approach they have to their game.
"Obviously with sports like basketball, if you mess up you sprint back and get in front of your defender. You lose a game; you still have more to play. In the Olympics, one false start, and four years of training is gone. You have to take every day as if it is your last. It made me appreciate how good you have to be to be great."
Olaseni hopes he can visit the Olympics again. Next time though, he envisions it being in a different capacity.
"I want to be there in 2016," he said. "I want to be there in 2014 for the European Championships as well. That would be great to represent my country."
Head coach Fran McCaffery knows he can get there, but is happy to have him in Iowa City for a few years first.
"It was good for Gabe to go home and see his family," said McCaffery. "The fact that the Olympics was going on at the same time was terrific for him. I know he is on Great Britain's radar for the future. It was good for him to see them compete internationally and gauge for himself where he fits in. They have some older players retiring so they are looking to get some new blood, and he could have a great career with that program, if that is what he chooses to do. But, he's going to be playing over here for a long time."
Olaseni's new outlook has him primed to get there.
"Knowing where I am from," he said, "knowing how far I have come... and knowing how far I still have to go to reach my goals... it put everything in perspective."