Gabriel Olaseni(s.Oliver Wurzburg) In Giessen Denis Wucher Believed I Could Do It And Now He Knows I Can Do It

Gabriel Olaseni is a 27 year old 211cm center from Great Britan that is playing his fourth professional season and second in Germany and first with s.Oliver Wurzburg. Last season he played with Montakit Fuenlabrada (Spain-Liga ACB) playing 34 games averaging 5.2ppg, 3.1rpg, FGP: 51.0%, FT: 82.4. In 2016-2017 he split time with Banco di Sardegna Sassari (Italy-Serie A) playing 13 games averaging 6.1ppg, 3.8rpg, 2FGP: 70.8%, FT: 73.3%; and played 9 Basketball Champions League gameS averaging 6.0ppg, 3.9rpg, 2FGP: 67.7%, FT: 70.6%, left in Mar.’17, later that month moved to Entente Orleans 45 (France-ProA) playing 13 games averaging 10.2ppg, 8.0rpg, FGP: 52.9%, FT: 66.7%. In his rookie season he played in Germany for Brose Bamberg (Germany-BBL) playing 9 games averaging 4.3ppg, 3.1rpg; and played 5 Euroleague games averaging 2.4ppg, 2.8rpg, in Nov.’15 moved to Giessen 46ers (Germany-BBL) playing 24 games averaging 11.7ppg, Reb-3 (7.0rpg), 1.2apg, FGP: 62.6%, FT: 70.0%. He played at Iowa (NCAA) from 2011-2015 playing a total of 119 games and as a senior played 33 games averaging 7.9ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.6bpg, FGP: 51.8%, FT: 75.0%. He recently spoke to about his basketball career.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Gabriel Olaseni at a pre season tournament in Rhondorf in 2018

Gabriel thanks for talking to Your playing your first season with s.Oliver Wurzburg and with your sixth team in four seasons. Do you sometimes feel like a basketball globetrotter?

Sometimes I did at the start of my career, but I haven’t been upset to how my career has gone. I always saw the many opportunites as being positive playing for coaches and teammates that liked me. I have always remained humble and believe that I will have a long career playing somewhere between 10-15 years. I feel that I have established myself in recent years.

Your playing your second season in Germany and with your third team after having gained experience in Italy and Spain. Do you feel like that the German EasyCredit BBL fits your style in how you play the game best?

Yes I think it does. I feel having been able to play in Germany has been a big boost in my career. Knowing how coaches coach in Germany and how refs work has benefited me. I may not always be the strongest guy on the court, but I can be the quickest and most athletic. I have been fortunate of having coaching staffs be able to put me in successful situations.

How exciting is it playing basketball for s.Oliver Wurzburg? The team had problems finishing games in 2018, but have turned it around in 2019. What has been secret to the success?

I think that the secret to the success now has been guys buying into their roles. Early on every guy wanted to do everything themselves. There will be games when you will shoot and then in other games when you won’t. If you play the right way then good things will come. It also helps when we know where the other guy will be. A Cook knows where and what I will do and vice versa. 

How big of a reason coming to Wurzburg was because of head coach Denis Wucherer? How has his coaching skills improved from your rookie season with Giessen?

Back in Giessen he was a big confidence booster for me. I remember the first conversation I had with him when I came to Giessen. He told me that my time in Bamberg didn’t go as planned, but that he would give me a chance to prove myself. Now he knows what I can do and it’s time to step up. The main difference between Giessen and now is that then coach believed I could do it and now he knows I can do it. He will get angry at you, but also gives praise. I have grown up since Giessen and know what I’m capable of now.

Is it difficult keeping the hunger simply because last season you got experience playing in the top league ACB in Spain. How will your ACB time help you best in the BBL?

My time in Spain in the ACB was also a big confidence booster. I was able to practice against top guys each day and play against top teams every weekend and that helped. I was fortunate to have success in a difficult environment despite not having a big role

Let’s talk a bit about your teammates? How enjoyable is it playing with Jordan Hulls. For me he is a top 5 guard in the easyCredit BBL. Why do you feel is he so underrated?

It has been great playing with Jordan. I remember playing against him in College. I was at Iowa and he was at Indiana. We were a bit stand offish at first, but we have a great relationship here. He may be the best shooter that I have ever played with. He is underrated despite making the 50/50/90 stats. We know that he takes only the shots that he knows he can make while on the highlight films you always see those wild shots. He is more than just a shooter, but can pass the ball well and talks. We have the utmost confidence in him and he makes winning plays. 

This your second tour of duty with Cameron Wells. He is another won of those guys that had to work up from lower leagues. Did you sense that he had a chip on his shoulder back in Giessen and is it still there now?

His chip on his shoulder is bigger than ever. He is a great player and he always wants to prove that he is a winner. He also makes winning plays and we all felt that he should have been an allstar this season. He wants to be seen as a top point guard.

How important has it been bringing in Mike Morrison? Is your toughness rubbing off on him and how do you feel will you profit from his presence?

It has been great having Mike on the team. I remember when he came in that management said that they wanted a change and I totally welcomed it. He is one of the vocal leaders on the team and so passionate. He always pushes you in practice. I have profited from him in many ways. He has helped me with running the floor, drawing fouls and understanding mismatches and playing angles. 

Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 211cm center. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?

I can’t compare my game to an NBA player. My favorite players are Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams

You’re a guy that has a versatile big man game. On what things do you continue to work on most as you continue to develop your game?

I’m working hard on my body and conditioning especially my lower body. I am also concentrating on working on running in transition and developing consistent post moves as well as working on my arc, free throws and angles.

What do you feel is still a hidden strength in your game that continues to get overlooked?

My passing. A lot of times I overpass. I like to see the floor and after an offensive rebound kick it out to my shooters. My teammates love my extra pass. My passing isn’t a hidden strength on my team, but it is on the outside. I’m a hockey assist guy.

Last season you played with Fuenlabrada and had some nice moments including the 80-75 win over Baskonia where you produced 10 and 6 stats, the 71-69 win against Estudiantes where you had 14 points and the 108-102 win against Zaragoza where you had 14 and 7 stats. Which win was your most memorable?

My most memorable game was against Estudiantes. I wasn’t fit at that time as I had a shoulder and neck injury. They told me to just go out and play. I was aggressive from the start and had a good game. I just wanted to contribute and win. 

Two seasons ago you played with Banco di Sardegna Sassari (Italy-Serie A) playing 13 games averaging 6.1ppg, 3.8rpg, 2FGP: 70.8%, FT: 73.3%; and 9 Basketball Champions League games averaging 6.0ppg, 3.9rpg, 2FGP: 67.7%, FT: 70.6%, left in Mar.’17, later that month moved to Entente Orleans 45 (France-ProA) playing 13 games averaging 10.2ppg, 8.0rpg, FGP: 52.9%, FT: 66.7%. How tough was this season playing for two teams again after doing it as a rookie in Germany? What did you learn from this experience?

That season was tough. I played decent at the start, but then we had a rough patch and the club brought in some new guys. I was very fortunate to have some very good teammates with Trevor Lacey, Darius Johnson-Odum and Josh Carter who always told me to keep working and to understand the ups and downs. It is difficult when you are a young player and are putting in the work, but not getting minutes. I remember I tried to always contribute in practice no matter what. I decided to leave and to establish myself for next season and went to France. I went there just wanting to contribute and help win games. I enjoyed the French league, but I realized that in 9 out 0f 10 times you won’t be the most athletic guy. I learned there that I won’t be able to out jump anyone, but I had to out smart everybody else. At the end of the season when I reflected on my season, I felt that I had improved my game regardless of what my stats were and if I had wins. I was able to sleep at night.

You played a few months in France. What memories do have playing with 35 year old veteran Marcellus Somerville who is still playing today in Israel. When looking back at that time how did you profit best from his presence?

His work ethic was amazing. I remember that he had a wife and several kids and he had to make breakfast and bring the kids to school, but he was still the first at practice. He was going early and leaving late. He also had an amazing passion. I can remember many games where we were winning well and he would still be screaming to us do even better. As a young player, I really looked up to him. He wasn’t old in age, but old in his basketball career.

As a rookie you split time with Brose Baskets Bamberg (Germany-BBL) playing 9 games averaging 4.3ppg, 3.1rpg; and played 5 Euroleague games averaging 2.4ppg, 2.8rpg, in Nov.’15 moved to Giessen 46ers (Germany-BBL) playing 24 games averaging 11.7ppg, Reb-3 (7.0rpg), 1.2apg, FGP: 62.6%, FT: 70.0%. You had some very good moments with Bamberg, but why do you feel were you not able to make more of an impact in that roster?

My time in Bamberg was a great situation. Going to a Euroleague team as a rookie is unheard of in Europe. It just doesn’t happen often. I wouldn’t say that I wasn’t ready, but moreover it had to do with my consistency. I was up and down with Bamberg. I started off well against Crailsheim and Ulm, but was up and down in between. They couldn’t wait for me to establish myself and make that step. I am very thankful for my opportunity wit Brose Bamberg. 

You were teammates with current Boston Celtics Brad Wanamaker and Daniel Theis and New Orleans Pelicans Darius Miller. Which guy had the biggest impact on you?

Brad Wanamaker had the biggest impact on me. He was a great overall leader. He was always in the gym and always kept giving me advice. He was playing in the second division in Italy, but he was always confident. He was always able to find his spots and never did anything crazy. He always told me stories about when he was in difficult situations, but always knew that he would make the elite level. He is such a humble guy that you would never know if he had won titles. I’m not surprised of the success he has had and I’m very happy for him. 

You finished the season strong with the Giessen 46ers. How vital was head coach Denis Wucherer in you achieving your BBL break through?

Besides high school and college, he was the first coach that truly believed in my abilities. I’m sure that I annoy him a lot, but he still trusts me. He puts me in successful spots. He has expectations for me now and he knows that I will step up. 

You seem to play your best basketball with the British national team. Does it mean more to play for your country than for a club team?

It is definitely different playing for your country than for a club team. It is great playing for Dennis and playing with guys like Wells, Bowlin and Hulls, but with the national team you are playing with guys that you grew up with and that is the main difference I have experienced so much with my British national team teammates. It just means so much more when you can reflect on how far you have come over the years with your national team teammates whereas with a club team you are only together for 10 months. You develop that pride and joy with the national team when you have success. 

You had amazing 18/11 stats at the 2017 European championships. Was your game at all noticed by big teams or even the NBA during this?

I had signed with Fuenlabrada before the Euro had started. I remember my agent telling me that I was getting more interest. I told him not to tell me anything, because I wanted to focus on the tournament and nothing else. 

You played NBA Summer League in 2015 with the Miami Heat and put up good stats. Did you get any kind of feedback from NBA teams where you had the feeling the NBA could actually happen one day?

It felt good playing there. I felt that I came from college to the NBA Summer League and was able to establish myself. I felt then that I could get to the NBA one day. I want to be able to show my skill set again some day and then show how I have developed so they see that I put in the work. I had interest, but it was for camp invites and The G-League. Since I was European, I wasn’t afraid to go to Bamberg. It was an offer that was too good to pass up. It made sense to make the jump to Bamberg. I hope one day I can make the jump to the NBA.

What kind of an experience was it being teammates with ex NBA player Ben Gordon? When do you remember first seeing him play and how important was his presence with your growing up?

The first time that I saw him play was when he played that crazy series against the Boston Celtics where he was hitting shots from everywhere in game 7. I remember a friend telling me that he was British. I didn’t believe him. He is a great guy and can shoot the ball. I remember when I heard rumors that he would join the national team, I expected an arrogant guy. The type of guy that won’t listen to the coach or make the extra pass. But it wasn’t like that at all. He was very talkative and it felt like we had been teammates for 10 years. He was that clutch shooter that we needed. He was a real fun guy and so down to earth. I never expected that.

You played at Iowa (NCAA) from 2011-2015 reaching the NIT final in 2013. What memories do you have of this run hat you will never forget?

There were many great memories at Iowa. I remember traveling to New York and playing at Madison Square Garden. But my most memorable moment was having the fortune of having three senior nights. It was great to have the extra opportunity ton play and be together with my teammates.

You played three seasons with current Euroleague Player Aaron White. Has his development and his rise up the basketball ladder surprised you?

No not at all. Aaron is one of the hardest workers I have ever seen. He wanted to be a professional player before he was a college player. He taught me how to act in a professional way. He is a very focused guy. He is all about family and friends, but then it’s all basketball. 

Was beating the mighty North Carolina 60-55 one of your biggest wins at Iowa? Playing against all those future NBA players who stood out the most?

What really stood out was their history. Winning against them was another big confidence booster. The size on the court also stood out. Every player on that team was versatile and was a NBA prospect. It was a very emotional game. Seeing all that talent on the court really opened my eyes to how much harder I had to work. J.P Tokoto and Kennedy Meeks stood out the most. I won’t forget how they were able to finish around the rim. 

How did head coach Fran Mccaffery groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?

I remember coach holding everyone accountable. He would scream the same way to an Aaron White as he would to a walk on. He was able to get everyone established in their roles. He asked us to accept our roles and just be the best that we could be. Even if he would scream at you, he was the sweetest kindest guy. He spoke with great passion for life and really cared about his players. He must of screamed at me 1000 times, but it was all for a good reason. The day a coach stops screaming is the day he stops caring. Playing for him was the best thing that could have happened to me. I can’t thank him more for the opportunity.

Who won a one on one in practice you or Adam Woodbury?

Big Wood. Our games never ended because there were too many fouls. He helped me so much. He was the biggest player in the league. He made you think the game. When I played against him, it prepared me best against a big guy and when he played against me it prepared him best for an athletic guy. The contrast was perfect. He was also a cool guy off the court.

You played against many great players the NCAA, but who is the toughest guy that you battled ever on the court that made it to the NBA?

Cody Zeller was the toughest player I faced in the NCAA. I ran the floor a lot, but he ran the floor every time. He always attacked the rim and always finished around the rim. Another tough player to play against was Przemyslaw Karnovski of Gonzaga. I couldn’t move him. He was my teammate last season and he always reminded me of our last college game about how tough he made life for me on the court.

If you had to pick your personal favorite starting five of teammates over the years which players would you chose?

Anthony Clemmons, Peter Jok, Aaron White, Suleiman Braimoh, Ian O’Leary

If you had to construct your very own NBA mount Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?

Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Shaq

What is your personal opinion about the never ending debate of who is the greatest between Michael Jordan and Lebron James?

This is a tough question. I grew up watching Lebron James, but I have seen Jordan play. I would have to pick Lebron.

What was the last movie that you saw?

Captain Marvel. I love Super Hero movies. This one was pretty good.

Thanks Gabriel for the chat. 

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