During his freshman and most of his sophomore year at Northwestern, Alex Olah was a player whose psyche often dictated how he played. Although he still sometimes battles himself on the floor, there was a moment last season where he started to change:
Soon after Olah expressed his desire to Collins, he once again stepped into his head coach's office after a workout. This time, it was Collins who had a message for his starting center. It went something like this:
"Olah, every time you wake up in the morning, I want you to look in the mirror and tell yourself, ‘I'm a beast.'"
"Just from that," Olah says, "first I laughed. But then I saw he was serious, and I was like, ‘Okay, well...' So every time I see him, I always say, ‘Hey, I'm a beast.'"
- from Henry Bushnell's "From passive newcomer to self-proclaimed celebrity: The transformation of Alex Olah"
As a junior and a "veteran" for Northwestern this season, Olah's maturity will have to get to the point where his mentality is to solve the opponent and not himself.
In the Wildcats' 65-58 season-opening win over Houston Baptist, Olah's maturity seemed to reach a new level. The center struggled in the opening half going just one for five from the field for a dismal three points in 15 minutes. Northwestern was out-rebounded 21-15. The opposing center, Ricmonds Vilde was four of six from the field, scoring eight points in 12 minutes. Worst of all, the Wildcats were down 31-28.
"I started soft in the first half," Olah said after the game. "I felt like I let my team down in the first half."
Last season, for example, Collins would have had to give Olah a personal pep talk in order to fire him back up for the second half. Friday night, though, was different.
"It was on me," Olah said about how he refocused for the second half.
"We just had to take the halftime to settle him down but get on him a little bit," Collins said.
Olah responded in the final period, dropping 18 of his 21 points and playing all but two minutes. His counterpart Vilde scored just four points. Olah finished with a double-double with 10 rebounds to accompany his scoring punch. Defensively, he swatted three shots.
Olah has the ability to be a powerful force for Northwestern this season and his ability to come back from a poor first-half performance could pay huge dividends for Northwestern.
"We feel like at that position we should have the advantage almost every night we play," Collins said about Olah's talent. "To Alex's credit he really responded and I was really proud of him for that."