He played with hockey players during their offseason, guys just looking for a way to occupy their time. They thought they might try out basketball for a season. For Olivier Hanlan’s high school teammates, the interest went no further than that.
Basketball, after all, is not the primary sport in Gatineau, Quebec, the hometown of Boston College’s highly touted freshman point guard. For Hanlan, though, it was different.
“I was really the only serious basketball player on the team,” he said. “It was fun in terms of having the ball all the time, taking every single shot, scoring as many points as I wanted. But in terms of me getting better as a basketball player, it was not really a good situation.”
So Hanlan found other ways, including playing on teams outside of his high school, watching YouTube instructional videos, receiving extra coaching, attending prep school for two years, and competing internationally with the under-19 Canadian team.
And with all that, Hanlan, the son of a college basketball player from Kingston, Jamaica, made his way from Quebec to New Hampshire to Chestnut Hill.
“When I was in Canada, it was easy for me,” Hanlan said. “I was the man where I was from. Just going overseas, playing against Team USA, seeing everybody was good and everybody was working on their game and everybody was strong, quick, everything . . . it really opened my eyes in terms of me having to work even harder to get to that level.”
Henry Hanlan handed his kids basketballs when they were mere toddlers. He had come from Jamaica to play basketball in college in Canada, at the University of Ottawa, and he was hoping to make his four children love the game too.
He succeeded. Dominique played and now coaches. Tatiana plays for the University of Ottawa. Chloe plays for the same prep school, New Hampton School, that Olivier did.
“My dad, it all starts with him,” Dominique said. “He was like 100 percent basketball. He got us basketballs when we were like 1 or 2. He got us playing competitive on two or three teams a year from like 4 or 5.
“We’re not from an area where basketball is really, really huge, but my dad always put us in situations where we could get the most out of it.”
That has turned out well for Olivier, who gets set to start his BC tenure, a team on which he could play a significant role. The Eagles are extremely young, having suffered through a 2011-12 campaign playing with mostly underclassmen.
But Hanlan and fellow guard Joe Rahon represent perhaps a higher caliber of freshman, and their minutes should reflect that.
Rahon, from San Diego and Torrey Pines High School, came from the established basketball grinder and, as BC coach Steve Donahue said, “Joe Rahon is probably more understanding of this level in some ways than Olivier. It doesn’t mean that Joe’s going to be more successful.”
It means that Rahon knows the routines, the coaching style, the teaching. He has seen it, has been through it. Hanlan hasn’t, not in the same way.
“Olivier, I think, is going to have some ups and downs until he figures out how good he is and how much he can do,” Donahue said. “If anything, he’s trying to not make mistakes, trying to be conservative. I want him to make mistakes; I want him to push the boundaries and see how good he can be.
“I can get anybody that can be conservative. I don’t want that. I want someone that can be special, and I think he has the ability to do that.”
Love of the game
It was something that Dave Smart recognized in Hanlan early on. Smart, the well-regarded coach of the Ottawa Guardsmen basketball team, Carleton University, and an assistant on the Canadian men’s national team, put Hanlan up against older competition, forced him to work harder.
He saw potential, and he wanted it to grow.
“He really wasn’t very good in even Grade 9, and he’s improved steadily every year,” Smart said. “He’s changed his body, he’s improved his shot, but he just is the type of kid who’s a great player because he loves the game.
“He doesn’t love the game because he’s good at it, he’s good at it because he loves it, which bodes well in terms of him ending up being a special player.”
Hanlan rarely worked with his own age group, and so he was rarely one of the best five or six players in the gym, Smart said. Because of that, even in a place that isn’t exactly a basketball hot-bed, the point guard was able to find the necessary competition.
He needed one good team, one good coach. In Smart and the Guardsmen, he found that, supplemented by workouts stolen from Youtube and modified by Dominique. He found enough to improve, and then he went south. Continued...