Gabe Olaseni was flown to Los Angeles for one of his 12 pre-NBA Draft workouts with the Lakers.
He didn't find out that morning just how impactful this one-hour session would be.
Olaseni, the Big Ten Conference's Sixth Man of the Year, found out the Lakers brought him in Friday to go one-on-one against who could be the NBA's first or second man picked: Duke 7-footer Jahlil Okafor.
"I just relished the challenge. I definitely brought my 'A' game," said Olaseni, who averaged 8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game for Iowa last season. "And they were really appreciative of the intensity I showed going against him."
Word has it that Olaseni held his own and then some Friday. The center, who shared time with Adam Woodbury last season at Iowa, has seen his pro stock rise in the last few months — especially after ranking first among all 64 college seniors at the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational in April in blocked shots (3.7 a game) and second in rebounds (10.7).
The session with Okafor, who is expected to go No. 2 overall to the Lakers, didn't hurt. Olaseni has jumped into DraftExpress.com's Top 100 prospects (No. 92 overall, No. 32 among college seniors). Only 60 players get picked during Thursday's NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y., but the chances are now excellent that Olaseni will, at minimum, sign with a team as a free agent and play in the NBA Summer League with a shot to make more impressions.
"If you're in the top 100, you have a real chance to get drafted," said Adam Pensack, Olaseni's agent. "It's really just about, does the right team have the right pick where they feel strong enough to pull the trigger? I think Gabe has worked himself into the draft conversation for sure. But it's always tough for seniors."
Olaseni is 23, but he is still relatively raw in basketball time — having not taken up the game until he was 14.
Ideally, Olaseni would land in an NBA training camp and make the team — where he could get shuttled to the NBA Development League but still be earning the league minimum of $525,093. At 6-foot-91/2 (with shoes) and a 7-31/2 wingspan, Olaseni's ability as an athletic big man who can run the floor is being discovered.
"This is no knock on Iowa at all," Pensack said, "but I think Gabe's game and tools are better utilized than an NBA-style game than college."
If Olaseni ends up in Europe, that's not a bad deal, either. He would be closer to his mother and siblings in London, England. Olaseni's father, Benson, passed away in November.
"They're just proud of me. Either way, hopefully I'll be closer to them — either be more financially stable enough to bring them over here more consistently or just being closer in length of travel," Olaseni said. "Either way, I think it's going to work out well."