With the spotlight squarely on his shoulders, Oregon senior Olu Ashaolu earned his accolades.
On Jan. 17, Ashaolu was the subject of a glowing feature story by Oregonian beat writer Lindsay Schnell. Two days later, he was leading the Ducks to a 65-62 win over USC with one of his best games of the year. Ashaolu scored 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting and pulled down five rebounds in only 20 minutes of action, validating Schnell’s midweek praise.
On top of its prophetic qualities, Schnell’s profile stands out as an example of outstanding journalism. While many reporters chase the star players for quotes, Schnell found her feature story on Oregon’s bench. That’s not to say Ashaolu is a scrub–as Schnell’s feature shows, Ashaolu plays a key role in Oregon’s success.
With strong quotes from Ashaolu’s teammates and head coach Dana Altman, the story paints the portrait of a defensive stalwart who comes off the bench to provide a spark for his team. The focus on his defense and rebounding prowess shifts the spotlight to aspects of the game that fans often overlook.
Like other great sports journalists, Schnell also highlights her subject’s life outside the sporting arena. Schnell details Ashaolu’s unorthodox path to Eugene, illuminating the challenges he faced in deciding to enroll at Oregon after graduating from Louisiana Tech:
But it took some time for Ashaolu to decide Eugene was the right fit.
“One morning I’d wake up and think, ‘OK, Oregon is where I want to go, it’s definitely the place for me,'” Ashaolu said. “Then I’d wake up the next morning and thinking, ‘OK, Texas is where I want to go.’ Then I’d wake up the third morning and have no idea.”
Eventually, the Ducks won out. Ashaolu was impressed with Altman’s success in his first season, when Oregon won the CBI. And he was intrigued by the Pac-12, a conference where he thought pace of play would be faster.
Ashaolu’s quote helps make him human to fans, showing that the 6-foot-7 forward faces struggles that supporters can relate to. Schnell also used the paper’s online edition to add some interesting details that couldn’t fit in the print article.
Check back into the ‘Shooting Hoops’ blog next week for a Q&A with Schnell.