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IOWA CITY Five Iowa basketball legends manned the half-court judging tables at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and fell all over themselves after watching the perfect dunk.
No winner was announced among the six contestants. But nobody needed to see the point cards held by Val Barnes, Jess Settles, Greg Stokes, Roy Marble and James Moses to determine the Black & Gold Blowout slam-dunk champion. The winner now goes by the newly christened nickname of British Air.
Junior center Gabe Olaseni owned the contest with two powerful dunks in the allotted 45-second time limit. His first was a power slam made famous by Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin. Olaseni, a London, England native, not only dropped the ball hard, he followed through with his arm through the net.
"I was like trying to put my head in the rim," Olaseni said.
He finished his performance with one likely never to be repeated. Olaseni started at one baseline and sprinted to the opposite free-throw line, where he took off. Olaseni finished at the rim with a slam that will make him famous.
"I've never done that before," Olaseni said. "I was talking to my teammates this week about trying that. I've never tried it before. Maybe I should practice it, but I'm too lazy for that. So I was hoping the crowd would help me out. I was just praying I'd get there."
"He just told me in the back that he just thought of it," junior Aaron White said. "He's so athletic he can pretty much do anything and make it look good. They were all awesome."
Olaseni, who stands 6-foot-10, dunked with authority, but more important to himself and his team, he's making strides on offense beyond the slam. He became a valuable defender last year in the post and helped Iowa set a new single-game blocks record with 13 against Illinois when he slapped seven shots. But the 21-year-old was limited offensively after picking up basketball in his early teens.
This summer he focused almost exclusively on offense, from using quick moves toward the basket to limiting his dribbling. Even in fall workouts, Olaseni spends his morning sessions on shooting drills and his afternoon workouts on post moves.
"Coach is thinking of putting me at the four, so I definitely have to work on my offensive game," Olaseni said. "The defense always seems to be there because of my intensity and my athleticism. But offensively, it's something I've definitely worked hard on."
It's starting to show. Although his points (2.7) and rebounds (2.6) were pedestrian last year, this summer and fall he's developed enough confidence to attack on offense. It was as much about changing his attitude as it was improving his technique.
"He didn't have the confidence to be that aggressive on offense," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "He just didn't trust himself. He was trying too hard to be perfect, and now he's playing with a little more reckless abandon. He's attacking the rim. He's not afraid to shoot the ball from the outside, put it on the deck. He always had the ability to finish with either his right or his left hand and he's always one of the best running big guys I've seen."
White touted Olaseni's work ethic and toughness as reasons for his improvement.
"He gets upset with himself because he's a perfectionist," White said. "He works so hard at it. His game has taken huge strides.
"He's a kid who hasn't played basketball for as long as somebody like me or some of the other guys. I've played basketball since I was born. He just kind of picked it up. He's the hardest worker. The potential is unlimited."