Two Trips To The Final Four
Olajuwon's adjustment American basketball was not easy. After sitting out the first year as a redshirt freshman, Olajuwon joined the Houston Cougars for the 1981-82 season, but, now seven feet tall, he suffered from frequent back spasms, caused by growing pains and simply being out of shape. Still learning the game, he was also consistently in foul trouble, but from the start he was a natural shot blocker. Throughout the season he worked on increasing his weight with lots of steak and ice cream and worked one-on-one with Houston Rockets star Moses Malone to improve his defensive skills and learn the more aggressive-style of American basketball.
By his second season, Olajuwon had become one of the best college basketball players on the court. The trio of Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and Larry Micheaux, known as the "Phi Slamma Jamma," tore through the season, posting a record of 31-3. Favored to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament in 1983, Houston lost, 54-52, in the final seconds of the last game when North Carolina State University threw up a buzzer-beater shot, a play that still earns a place on sports highlight films two decades later. Despite losing, Olajuwon was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. With Drexler and Micheaux gone the next season, Olajuwon became a one-man show, averaging fifteen points per game and leading the nation with 13.5 rebounds per game. Although Houston once again made it into the final game of the NCAA tournament, the Cougars failed to win the title, losing 84-75 to another future superstar center, Patrick Ewing, and his Georgetown Hoyas.