BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Donahue's New Guns, "Joe And O"
With A War-Like Mentality For Competition, Hanlan And Rahon Are Looking To Push The Program Further
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Joe Rahon put his faith in Steve Donahue before the two had ever met. Two and a half years ago, when Rahon was a sophomore, Donahue was in the middle of a Cinderella run through the NCAA Tournament. His Cornell squad had captured America’s heart on its way to the Sweet 16 and a matchup with the star-studded Kentucky Wildcats.
Rahon, a talented guard from San Diego, sat glued to the TV that night in March. He had picked Donahue’s team to beat future lottery picks John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins on their way to the Elite Eight in his March Madness bracket. On the other end of the continent, Olivier Hanlan, another strong guard from Quebec, was watching as well. Little did they know that this one game in late March would unite “Joe and O” for years to come.
Donahue and the Big Red lost that night, but when the coach took over at Boston College the next season and started to show interest in Rahon and Hanlan, both thought back to that game and that magical run.
“I just loved watching them play,” Rahon said. “The way they moved the ball, shot threes, and got up and down. They were really fun to watch.”
“I remember watching that Kentucky game, and everybody from one to five shot the ball, and everybody was making shots and they were competing with Kentucky for almost the whole game,” Hanlan said.
Both guards separately committed to BC and Donahue’s system in October of 2011, inspired by the coaching staff and how they would fit in with the program.
“I just felt when I came on my visit, I really fell in love with the coaching staff,” Hanlan said. “I really felt like I would fit in this system in terms of how they play and how they push the ball. [Donahue] really pushes his guards to play hard and have a big role out there.”
“I came here because the coaching staff is great,” Rahon said. “They really know what they’re doing, and what they did at Cornell was special. I wanted to get a taste of the ACC, and I love the basketball, so it was the best option for me.”
Beyond just their connection with the coaching staff, though, that game against the Wildcats empowered their decision to sign up for Donahue’s rebuilding effort in Chestnut Hill.
“I think it helped for those two in particular because it validated a lot of things that they were looking for,” Donahue said. “It just gave them more confidence in their decision that they could judge me on something. If I didn’t do that, then, as the coach of Boston College with nothing to go back on, I think it would be a little harder for them to jump in and want to be a part of this.”
Rahon and Hanlan were in, and they wouldn’t have to wait long to make their mark.
The twice a week one-hour sessions with the coaches on the court weren’t much of an adjustment for the freshmen when they got to campus in late June, but the weight room was a different story. Rahon had done some lifting with his dad during high school, but never in a structured environment or at an elite level. Hanlan, however, was holding on to a secret.
“He’s a monster on the bench,” Rahon said.
During testing, strength coach Nick Asermelly asked the freshmen how much they thought they could bench press. Rahon guessed around 200 pounds and maxed out around that number. Hanlan shot a little higher and said 225, but went on to max out around 260.
“Obviously he looks like a strong dude and I knew he’d be a monster, but I didn’t think he was going to put up numbers like that,” Rahon said.
“I was surprised too,” Hanlan joked.
Although Rahon couldn’t bench as much as Hanlan, both guys are not only way more ready to play than last year’s freshman class, but most incoming freshmen in general according to Donahue.
“They’re just more mature in their approach to the game than the typical freshman,” Donahue said. “They both have really good bodies for this level. They compete physically and mentally in a way that you don’t see a lot at this level—not to compare them to the guys last year. I’m just saying in general that they are as good of freshmen in that sense as anyone I’ve ever coached. Both of those guys really get it. They understand what this is all about.”
Although the freshmen proved they had the physical and fundamental abilities to compete early on, once full practices began, it was still an adjustment for the new guards.