Olivier Hanlan is on a journey that is a mere dream for most young basketball players. Heading into his second year of NCAA Division One basketball with Boston College, he’s already earning accolades and getting noticed. Olivier Hanlan sat down with BasketballBuzz to talk about his path to basketball success.
Olivier Hanlan began his journey playing high school and club basketball in Aylmer, Quebec. After gaining some attention, he began playing for the Ottawa Guardsmen under coach Dave Smart. “I was playing against a lot of older people when I was younger, so everybody was always better than me. Whenever it came to my age group, I was always better than everybody. I was lucky enough to play with the Guardsmen, I used to scrimmage a lot with Osvaldo (Jeanty), they used to have me in those Carleton scrimmages.”
Olivier’s road to the NCAA passed through New Hampton Prep, but the transition was not easy. “I came out of here (Aylmer), probably being the best high school player in my area, but when I went over there, in New England, everybody was stronger than me, faster, more athletic and bigger, ranked higher. It just made me more hungry. The first half of my first prep school year, I had a bumpy road. I was not playing too well, my confidence was not great.” With hard work, and mentoring from his coaches, things started to improve. “My last year there was when I made that big jump. It just really helped me with getting ready for college.” Olivier earned 1st team all-NEPSAC AAA team honors as a senior, averaged 17 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds, leading his 15th ranked team in the country to a 26-9 record.
Long before his graduation from New Hampton, he attracted the attention of many college programs. He finally signed with the Boston College Eagles, who had been trying to recruit him for over a year. “I got to Boston College ready to play. I was stronger, faster (and) more mature. I knew how to play the game.” It didn’t take long for Olivier to make his mark at BC. He was one of only two players to start in every game, averaging 34.2 minutes, 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He was named ACC Freshman of the Year by both coaches and the media and was the only freshman to rank in the top six for points, rebounds and assists among rookies. It was not a surprise considering his 41-point outburst against Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament, setting an ACC freshman single-game record by burying eight three-pointers while finishing a scorching 14-of-18 from the floor including his final 12 attempts.
Olivier was not resting on his freshman success. When asked what he was focusing on over the summer, he responded: “To really become a better leader on the court, with all my teammates. We have a lot of good pieces, but I could have been a lot more vocal last year and really helped people. I’ve been working on everything, ball handling, and trying to get a little quicker because I’ve been playing against a lot of smaller guards out there.”
Olivier has a great support system to get him to this level starting with his family. His father, Henry Hanlan, played CIS basketball for the Ottawa University Gee-Gees. His brother also played and his sister is following in his footsteps. “I have some good people surrounding me. My dad always comes down to BC, these seven hour drives. He probably came to see 10-15 of my games last season. My mother is always there. Sister is playing basketball at my old prep school, so they’ve always been in the basketball culture.” His brother, Dominique Hanlan, has been on the court with him, working out and supporting him throughout. “It’s his goal to play NCAA Division 1, and he’s looking forward to the next step. We’re proud to see him do his thing.” Dominique told BasketballBuzz.
Besides the support of his family, Hanlan has also enjoyed the support of some great coaches since his time with the Guardsmen. “Playing a lot with Os and the Dave Smart system. It really helped me get ready for college.” His experience in New Hampton was similar. “I had a great coach over there. (Coach) Pete Hutchins stayed with me, worked me out a lot.” As his journey progresses at Boston College, the support of his coaches continues on. “It was a great experience, I had a great coach. Coach Donahue has a lot of confidence in me. He let me learn through my mistakes. Working out all my freshman summer with them and watching a lot of game tape really helped me. I just had that connection with him. I really felt comfortable.”
Hanlan has also represented Canada. He played for the U19 team in Latvia in the 2011 FIBA Championships and led the Canadian U17 team to a bronze medal at the FIBA World Championships in Germany, scoring 15 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds against Lithuania. After his impressive performance he was presented with a unique opportunity which prevented him from playing with the Canadian Development Men’s National Team this summer. Nevertheless he is likely to represent Canada again as a member of the Senior Men’s National Team, along with Tyler Ennis (playing with the Syracuse Orange) as the next wave of point guards. Their ability to score can bring some much needed stability to the back court.
Being one of only 12 NCAA guards invited to the Nike Guard Skills Academy, Olivier got to work with some the NBA’s greatest players. “I learned a lot from LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kyrie (Irving) and Deron Williams. I got a lot of feedback from all the scouts and coaches out there.” This unique experience is not lost on Hanlan. “It helps with your confidence, just being with them on the court. You always see them on TV. I remember that LeBron James was on my team for a few five on five drills, Chris Paul was on my team, and we played one-on-one together. They were just always involved.”
While Hanlan is defying the odds, there are other players in the Ottawa region inspired by his success. “There is talent around here, you just have to get exposure. Kevin Zabo is a perfect example, he was here with me, playing in the same high school league. He’s at Brewster in New England right now and that’s only the start for him. He’s going to be a great player. Marial (Shayok) has been doing a lot of good things and a few other guys are starting to make noise, like Jacques (Lukasa).”
The journey continues for the Aylmer native, he strongly believes that he will earn a spot in the NBA someday, despite of some people’s dissenting opinions. “I like proving people wrong; I’m from a little town out here, Aylmer. I’m going to just keep grinding. I’m going to try to keep improving every year.” As he continues to improve, Olivier may eventually silence his critics. He will become the first NBA player the Ottawa/Gatineau region has ever produced.