Men’s Basketball: Arrival of Kreisberg to spark improvement from Olah


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior Alex Olah says he has benefitted from the presence of fellow big man Jeremiah Kreisberg, who arrived from Yale this year for his senior season. Olah averaged 9.1 points and 5.2 rebounds last season.

Jesse Kramer, Reporter


The coaching staff’s expectations are straightforward for 7-foot junior Alex Olah: They want him to be one of the Big Ten’s best centers.

Olah made major improvements last season, and he put in the individual work necessary to progress more as a junior. But his development has accelerated thanks to the addition of 6-foot-10-inch Yale transfer Jeremiah Kreisberg.

Kreisberg, who has one season of eligibility with the Wildcats, has the size and skill to challenge Olah in practice.

Coach Chris Collins said last season the Cats were unable to test Olah to help him improve.

Nikola Cerina was the only other scholarship player taller than 6-foot-7-inches, and he did not have the skill to compete at the Big Ten level. He played only 8.8 minutes per game.

As a result of not being tested, Olah would often have a false sense of confidence entering games, Collins said. With Kreisberg on the team, the 7-footer cannot ease through practice against smaller competition anymore.

“I think (Olah) has to be really sharp if he wants to be successful against me,” Kreisberg said. “I think I make him think a lot. I know his moves.”

In addition to the physical challenge, Kreisberg brings a high basketball IQ to the team.

Assistant coach Brian James, who works with the frontcourt, said Kreisberg is a “workaholic.” The newcomer constantly wants to watch film and improve his knowledge of the game.

Olah said Kreisberg has transmitted some of that basketball wisdom to him. Kreisberg’s knowledge of the game also compensates for Olah’s size advantage, making Olah’s life more difficult when they battle in practice.

“He might not be as tall as me,” Olah said, “but with his experience he knows how to guard me. He knows a lot about basketball. He makes me better.”

Olah took the first step toward becoming one of the conference’s better centers last season. His scoring average jumped from 6.1 points per game as a freshman to 9.1 as a sophomore. More importantly, his field-goal percentage improved from 41.5 percent to 50.9 percent.

James said his goal for Olah as a junior is to average a double-double. That is a lofty target, but what Olah has learned from practicing against Kreisberg makes the objective more realistic.

“It’s tougher for Alex to succeed in practice,” James said. “Not only is Jeremiah strong physically, but he is very crafty on the court in terms of stopping what he feels Alex’s strengths are. Some practices Alex has really had the best of Jeremiah, and Jeremiah has really had the best of Alex at some points.”

Kreisberg’s role goes well beyond being Olah’s tool for improvement. With his skill, basketball IQ and work ethic, the coaches expect he will see significant floor time.

Even though he is the grizzled veteran, Kreisberg has also learned and improved by going against his younger counterpart every day in practice.

“I’m jealous of how talented (Olah) is,” Kreisberg said. “I had a lot of bad habits coming out of the Ivy League, just not finishing strong every time. I could play at 90 percent (there) versus 110 percent (here). With him, if I ever take a play off, I’m screwed. At Yale, I’d be going against 6-foot-8 guys every day. Now going against a potential all-Big Ten 7-footer, it’s awesome.”

Contending for a spot on the all-Big Ten team may still be a season away. But there are only a handful of true centers in the Big Ten, and James said Olah could realistically be among the league’s elite at that position if he gets enough minutes.

For Olah, reaching that goal is all about continuing to develop, both by practicing against Kreisberg and competing against opponents once the season starts.

“Every time I play, I’ve got to be the best center on the court day in and day out,” Olah said. “Every day is a day for improvement.”

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Twitter: @Jesse_Kramer