Iowa senior center Gabriel Olaseni has been a key contributor down low during his career in Iowa City and he’s been playing really good ball lately during the Hawkeyes’ recent winning streak. The 6-foot-10 Olaseni is averaging 10.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game the last four games, even though his father, Benson Olaseni, passed away in England less than two weeks ago.
Rather than head home and miss games and school, Olaseni has opted to play through his recent grief and stay until the winter break when he might miss a game to spend some time at home. In an excellent story from Don Doxsie of the Quad City Times, Olaseni and head coach Fran McCaffery open up about the senior playing through this recent stretch and displaying his emotions with the team. The win on the road at North Carolina was especially emotional for Olaseni, who wishes his dad could have seen the big win for the Hawkeyes.
“It all hit him Wednesday night in the locker room,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said in the story. “It was kind of a unique locker room. It’s about as happy a group as I’ve ever been around in all my years playing and coaching. Yet, he was bawling his eyes out. His teammates had their arms around him. The guys are dancing and they see him, so it was a little more about him at that point than anything else …
“He wanted to play in that game, and he wanted to impact that game, and he did. Then we win. So, as you can imagine, it was pretty emotional for him. I don’t think he was off the floor yet and he was bawling all the way down the tunnel and into the locker room.
“But I think it was good for him.’’
For Olaseni to play during this stretch — and put up numbers to exceed his career averages — is a testament to his maturity and experience as a senior. This Iowa locker room is also very strong and used to dealing with situations involving family when they dealt with McCaffey’s son Patrick’s battle with cancer. That level of respect among teammates probably helps Olaseni get through this.
The senior will be able to go home soon and spend some time with family before coming back for Big Ten play by the end of December.