Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

The Iceman

Bridget Schneller
Ólafur Gunnlaugsson, a native of Iceland, is a new addition for the BHSU men’s basketball team.

With a lifelong career in basketball, Olafur Gunnlaugsson is now continuing his basketball career at Black Hills State University where he will be playing the primary position of forward.

Gunnlaugsson’s passion for athletics was inspired by his family.

“Everybody in my family played sports,” Gunnlaugsson said. “My grandpa was a national team player for handball and soccer at the same time.”

His father also played on multiple sports teams leading Gunnlaugsson to pick up those sports as well.

“I started playing golf first as that was my first sport as my dad played golf and basketball,” Gunnlaugsson said. “My dad went professional in Iceland on the top league, and he played basketball there for 15 years.”

This exposure from his father led to Gunnlaugsson playing basketball as his main sport.

“I hung out [with my dad] and traveled everywhere with him,” Gunnlaugsson said. “That’s how I really got into basketball and that’s the main reason as my dad taught me everything.”

Not only did the influence of his father push Gunnlaugsson into sports, but Iceland’s culture left an impact on how he views athletics.

“[Growing up]Every kid in Iceland always played like their handball, soccer, football, or like gymnastics,” Gunnlaugsson said. “Everybody is sports-orientated… I would say it is a very big sports country.”

To live up to his family’s expectations, Gunnlaugsson moved away from home to perfect his basketball skills and to compete at a career level.

“My dad had a big plan like he always does, and he wanted to see if I could live alone; so, I ended up going to my dad’s old professional team to play with,” Gunnlaugsson said. “[It] was all the way up north in Iceland and I was there all alone in a dorm room [at age] 16 years old.”

This experience proved to Gunnlaugsson and his family that he was able to adapt to new surroundings and move even farther away to pursue basketball.

After [Iceland], it went well, so I went to Germany,” Gunnlaugsson said. “It kind of got harder because now you have a flight back home and stuff like that, but just gradually became a norm.”

After this experience in Germany, Gunnlaugsson started to look for an opportunity to play basketball in America. So, he utilized his connections from his German team to attend a high school in the United States and continue his basketball journey there as well.

“Keven Capers, he was an All-American division two-level and I got really close with him, and his childhood friend was the coach at the school [The Potter’s House Christian Academy] I went to,” Gunnlaugsson said. “Gradually after Germany, I hit [Caspers] up, and asked him if he knew anything about high school in America and he sent me his friend’s number.”

From here, Gunnlaugsson moved to Jacksonville Florida to start his American basketball career. In Florida, he finished high school and then began his college career playing two years of college men’s basketball at Florida Southern.

Gunnlaugsson understood the importance of this move to Florida and how it would be beneficial for his higher education.

“When I finished up in Germany, my dad sat me down and was like ‘Do you want to want to get the degree now for free, or just go and get money [playing basketball in Europe] and risk getting an injury and not getting the degree,” Gunnlaugsson said. “So, I came here for the degree.”

After playing for two years at Florida Southern, Gunnlaugsson had to make the decision of transferring to another college to play basketball and continue his college education or to go home and play basketball for a European team.

This situation led Gunnlaugsson to apply to other schools and compete against other players to fill a spot on a college team.

“I got into the transfer portal early and started emailing coaches because you have to do it quick enough to get at least one scholarship,” Gunnlaugsson said. “When I got into the portal, there were not even 1,000 players in the portal, and like a month later, there were like 3,000 because a lot of people are transferring.”

Not only was this a difficult aspect of finding a new school, but also with Gunnlaugsson being a foreign exchange student added another element of complexity.

“I ended up getting some schools hitting me up and stuff like that but there were some difficulties being an international,” Gunnlaugsson said. “There are some schools where you have to pay more if you’re international and can’t get funding, so it was harder for the program to get you.”

With this obstacle, Gunnlaugsson utilized his connections to transfer to an ideal school allowing international students.

“I asked my trainer back home if he knows anybody,” Gunnlaugsson said. “And then I started talking to Thompson, he watched my film and then offered me to be on the team.”

Gunnlaugsson immediately adapted well to the team and became a notable player to his teammates and coaches.

“He has been a great addition, I am glad he is here,” said Ryan Thompson the BHSU men’s basketball coach.” He is a really talented basketball player.”

Gunnlaugsson passion and knowledge of the sport of basketball stood out to Thompson.

“He is very intelligent and had a great feel for the game,” Thompson said. “We’ve had some other European student-athletes with good careers, and a common theme is that they really feel for the game…and he fits that mold.”

With the addition of Gunnarsson joining BHSU’s men’s basketball team, he will be adding an element of hard work and a passion to the sport of basketball.