Olaseni's unselfish dominance sparking the London Lions' roar - Hoopsfix.com

Olaseni’s unselfish dominance sparking the London Lions’ roar

Gabe Olaseni London Lions EuroCup

As the London Lions celebrated their historic run to the BKT EuroCup semifinals, the first British team ever to reach that stage, one figure towered above the rest – both literally and figuratively.

Gabe Olaseni, the Lions’ and Great Britain’s 6’10” centre, had been at the heart of this improbable journey, being the consistent force that the team can rely on night in, night out.

The 2022/2023 Basketball England Men’s National Player of the Year, ended his European campaign averaging 15.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 20.1 PIR per game.

Fittingly, Olaseni’s monumental season was recognised when he was named to the EuroCup First Team, joining teammate Matt Morgan as the only pair from the same squad selected.

But individual accolades have never been the driving force for the 32-year-old East Londoner.

“I don’t know, I had mixed feelings, you know?” Olaseni admitted. “I think I was happier for Matt Morgan. I kind of went crazy when I saw he made it with me. I was more happy that he made it, as opposed to me.”

That unselfish attitude is woven into the fabric of this Lions team, a tight-knit group that has shattered expectations through their collective commitment.

“You never go into a season saying you want individual awards,” Olaseni stated.

“But I think with me and Matt, it just shows the type of team we have. We’re the only team with two guys in the First Five. It reflects the way we play.”

For the Lions’ gentle giant, this European campaign was a true team effort, with different players stepping up every night.

“Honestly, I think it could have been anyone from our team, because we’re so unselfish,” Olaseni said. “So many guys have been the MVP for us. Donte [Grantham], Conor Morgan, Sam Dekker – so many guys showed up in big moments.”

One of those defining moments came in an unforgettable road victory against Italian side Reyer Venezia, a clash that epitomised the Lions’ resolve.

“It was a tough travel there,” Olaseni recalled.

“It felt like 15 of us against the entire city of Venice. And we walked out with the win – it set the tone that we could overcome anything.”

Gabe Olaseni Dunk London Lions

That fighting spirit has been fuelled by the rising exposure of the British Basketball League under CEO Aaron Radin.

Where once it was a struggle for Olaseni to follow the action from abroad, the league has an ever increasing online presence.

“From an outside perspective, when I first went to America, it was really difficult to watch the games,” he admitted.

“And I think last year was the first year where I’m in my apartment and I know someone’s playing in London or someone’s playing in Manchester that are friends of mine. I can just tune into the game on YouTube, you know?.

“I think currently it’s so easy, it’s so easily accessible, you know, and I think that’s the most important thing, just being able to get the game out there, getting more eyes on it.

“So I think having free access on YouTube, a lot of content on social media, with multiple pages, doing multiple things, I think it’s just helping the game grow. So many people are tuning in.

“I think you can see it now, but I think you’ll see it more in the future with maybe a kid out there who’s watching Luke Nelson play or Donte Grantham, you know. So yeah, it’s amazing to see the progress so far.”

Gabe Olaseni has been named in the first team of the competition alongside his teammate Matt Morgan.

For Olaseni, that heightened visibility is a catalyst for even grander ambitions – the widespread entry of British teams into European competition.

“I think eventually, a lot of teams are going to want to play in European competition. They want to get that experience. So I think in the next two, three years, it’s going to really explode. Especially when we have more teams in that high level European competition.”

The benefits, according to the big man, are profound:

“It can only help, because from a player’s perspective, it’s good to have one game a week. But nothing beats two games a week, you know?

“You can see a lot more if you travel to different countries, and it’s always good to play against different players.

“So, I have no doubts that the British League will grow. But I just think it needs a little bit more European infusion in terms of the competition and stuff like that.”

Olaseni’s own game has certainly ascended, drawing rumoured interest from EuroLeague powerhouses.

But with the Lions chasing a second consecutive British Basketball League playoff title, such speculation is an afterthought.

“I don’t really think about the future that much when I’m playing,” he said frankly.

“We have to win this domestic title. I think we are three weeks away. After that, I’ll probably just sit with my agent and figure out what’s next for me. I really do try to focus on the season.

“I think if you look too far ahead you miss what’s in front of you right now.”

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