Aug 1, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - The men's basketball recruiting crop is pretty much picked over by the time spring rolls around, and it's almost miraculous if, by late July, you can sign a quality prospect.
That's why it's so amazing the Salukis were able to pick up 6-foot-8 forward Bola Olaniyan, a signing that is being hailed within coaching circles as a coup for Saluki men's basketball coach Barry Hinson and his staff.
Olaniyan comes with a story, of course. The Nigerian native arrived in the United States two years ago to play basketball at Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina. Mount Zion is a basketball factory that has produced the likes of Tracy McGrady, Amar'e Stoudemire and numerous other NBA and Division I players.
Still a novice at the game of basketball, Olaniyan did not distinguish himself as a hot prospect at Mount Zion. Then, according to Hinson, the academic program that brought Olaniyan to the Mount Zion was discontinued, and he was left without a school for his senior year.
Olaniyan landed at Richmond High School (Ind.) under the direction of head coach Joe Luce. What better place to learn the finer points of the game than the Hoosier state, right?
Those who have seen Olaniyan play say his skills are legitimate, but raw. His energy level and work ethic are off the charts. Thoughts of the next Mamadou Seck come to mind.
"I was sold when I saw the progress he made from the start to the end of his senior year," Hinson said. "It was really incredible. Everybody I talked to in the state of Indiana who either competed against him or watched him play said they think he will just get better and better."
When Olaniyan finally recorded the necessary SAT score in July, offers quickly came from schools still holding on to open scholarships. Rumor had it that a Big East school showed late interest in Olaniyan, and Hinson confirmed that an SEC power also called soon after word spread about the SAT score.
Hinson quickly closed the deal with Olaniyan, however, and chalked the recruiting victory up to the virtue of patience.
"Like the Book of Job, we kept our patience and we got a diamond in the rough," he said. "When we first got here, everybody asked, `who are you gonna sign -- let's sign somebody.' You kept hearing me say over and over, we're not going to sign anybody just to sign somebody. We're going to wait and find the perfect fit."
Hinson is especially excited about the caliber of person he is getting in Olaniyan.
"I can't remember the last time in the recruiting process where every time I visited the kid on the phone or in person, I came away amazed at what a pleasurable kid he was," Hinson said. "He's probably one of the nicest individuals I've recruited in a long time."