The Hawkeyes center reacts to his father's passing
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Benson Olaseni gave a message to family before he passed away Wednesday morning in England.
"Just continue as usual," Benson's son, 6-foot-10 Iowa basketball player Gabe, said. "Be strong."
Though he's thousands of miles away from home, Gabe Olaseni is staying busy and staying close to his other family here in Iowa City — his Hawkeye teammates, and coach Fran McCaffery.
Olaseni, in his first interview since his father's death, said Saturday he's been overwhelmed by the support from Hawkeye fans on social media.
On Thanksgiving, he spent more than six hours at McCaffery's home. On the court, he got a meaningful message from Iowa's fifth-year coach.
"Coach told me when I sat down on the bench, (Benson) would've been proud of me," Olaseni said.
Olaseni scored 10 points Saturday, adding six rebounds and five blocked shots in Iowa's 77-44 rout of Longwood, a team picked to finish last in the Big South Conference. Olaseni also had 10 points in Wednesday's win against Northern Illinois, hours after learning the sad news from London.
McCaffery credited Olaseni's focus for helping him power through an emotional time.
"It's how he lives his life," McCaffery said. "How he prepares academically, he's always on time, he's always early, he's a great teammate, he reads the scouting report, processing the scouting report.
"It got to the point in the summer … where I wanted to throw him out of the gym. He's in there three times a day. You're going to start wearing down, and your body is going to wear down because you're in there so much. But he wants it so bad. His dad wanted it for him."
Olaseni will play in Iowa's ACC/Big Ten Challenge game Wednesday at North Carolina, then fly to England for memorial services. He will miss Saturday's game against Maryland-Baltimore County. His status Dec. 9 against Alcorn State is up in the air.
"I've been emotional a couple times, but it hasn't hit me," Olaseni said. "Once I go back home and I walk around the house, I'm going to go off."
Some other takeaways from Iowa's win against Longwood, its third at home in six days:
Tough defense: For the first time in the McCaffery era, Iowa held back-to-back opponents under 50 points. Iowa beat Northern Illinois, 70-49, on Wednesday.
That was maybe the best development this week for Iowa (5-2) after games against Texas and Syracuse slipped away in New York City.
"That's what has to happen in big games against the higher competition that we're about to play in the next two or three weeks," said Aaron White, who led the Hawkeyes with 19 points. "When the ball's not in the hole, you've got to tighten up on defense."
Brady Ellingson: The freshman hit his first two 3-pointers of the season in his second game, much to the pleasure of the announced crowd of 13,819 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Ellingson had been shut down with a foot injury that still isn't 100 percent, McCaffery said. There is still time to apply for a medical redshirt. Aside from Ellingson, Iowa was 7-for-27 (25.9 percent) from 3-point range Saturday.
"I haven't really put too much thought into (redshirting)," Ellingson said. "I was just trying to get my foot better and get out there."
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery talks about the freshman's foot injury and recovery.
Trey Dickerson: The exciting sophomore transfer tied a season high with 19 minutes and had his best game as a Hawkeye: seven points, four assists, no turnovers. Dickerson got 24 total minutes in Iowa's previous four games.
The point guard knows one speed: Fast. Learning to contain his energy has been the toughest transition to Division I ball.
"My defense, I'm real fast," Dickerson said. "So if I can press the ball full court, that'd give me a little more time."
And some rest: Iowa has practiced or played 19 consecutive days. With Sunday comes a day off. No shooting, no basketball, period.
"He (McCaffery) just wants us to take the day off, rest our bodies," White said. "I'll listen to him."