The former Iowa center opened eyes of scouts along the way.
Gabe Olaseni has parlayed effort and head-turning results into a lucrative overseas contract to play professional basketball.
The former Iowa Hawkeye center announced Thursday on Instagram that he was signing with a team in Germany, Brose Baskets Bamberg of the 24-team Euroleague — considered the top hoops league in Europe.
Olaseni's agent, Adam Pensack, said that the 6-foot-10 Olaseni had multiple NBA training-camp offers, but turned them down to sign the one-year overseas deal.
"I really thought this was the best opportunity for me," Olaseni said Thursday night. "It's the second-best league in the world. For them to offer a rookie a deal, it very rarely happens."
Pensack wouldn't get into specifics on the contract value, but said Olaseni "will likely be the highest paid rookie in Europe and will likely be the only rookie playing in Euroleague this season."
Olaseni, who is from London, England, didn't start playing basketball until he was 14. Now 23, he broke through as a Hawkeye senior, in which he was named the Big Ten Conference's Sixth Man of the Year.
He went on to dominate at the prestigious Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational for college seniors in April, averaging 7.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.7 blocked shots per game. Days later, Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery told HawkCentral.com, "I think he made himself some money" with the Portsmouth showing.
Days before the June 26 NBA Draft, Olaseni held his own against No. 3 overall NBA Draft pick Jahlil Okafor in a private workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, another head-turning performance.
Though Olaseni wasn't picked in the two-round draft, he joined the Miami Heat as a free agent. In the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, he averaged 7.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 21.4 minutes a game for the Heat, who wanted him to return to training camp.
But Olaseni said NBA types told him it was a no-brainer to take the Euroleague opportunity, which will give him a healthy paycheck and another year to build up his 223-pound frame to roughly 235, while also working on his low-post offense.
Pensack said Olaseni's British passport only helps him in Spain and Italy due to specific roster rules in those leagues, "so this deal is all about Gabe's talent and hard work throughout his college career, the predraft process and summer league."
As a first-year pro, Olaseni will reside in the same country as his college roomate. HawkCentral.com confirmed a few days ago that former Hawkeye Aaron White will sign a one-year deal to play professionally in Bonn, Germany. White was a second-round pick by the Washington Wizards, who retain his NBA rights.
More importantly, Olaseni will be in the same time zone as his family in London, and just a two-hour flight away. Thursday night, he reflected on the emotions of the past year, which included the sudden passing of his father, Benson, in November.
"Obviously, it's a great situation, I wish my Dad would've been there," Olaseni said."Like everything since he passed away, he's there with me in spirit. I can't wait for the day until I see him again and talk to him about all this stuff."
After signing his first pro contract, the former Hawkeye reflected on his father's presence.