He has been on the floor for nearly 45 consecutive minutes without rest, save for the single, first-half minute that Steve Perpiglia mercifully gave him what can only be loosely labeled “rest.” The mileage adds up, the exhaustion mounts. Play after play, he runs around the multitude of screens, designed by basketball coach Jim Christian to give Boston College’s only ball handler some semblance of a head start. Soon, every opponent on the floor will collapse on the only player that poses any threat to their victory against a depleted BC (9-15, 1-11 ACC) squad.
Play after play, he must make something happen, either by scoring or by putting his teammates, most of whom cannot manufacture their own shots, in position to score. Yet amid this inhuman burden, the mammoth responsibility of being the Eagles’ primary scorer and primary creator, Olivier Hanlan does not stop. The minutes pile up, the game grows old, and yet, his motor runs at a higher level than that of anyone on the court.
With less than two minutes to go in the first overtime of BC’s 89-86 double OT loss to Miami (16-9, 6-6 ACC), Hanlan darts around the floor. As Aaron Brown handles the ball at the top of the key, Hanlan runs his defender off two screens, slips to the corner, and drills a three to put BC in front, 73-71. This play is just one example of the tremendous job Hanlan does night after night, despite garnering multiple defenders’ attention on each play. In Monday’s game, Hanlan displayed his full offensive repertoire, racking up 32 points on 13-of-26 shooting and 5-of-12 from beyond the arc. He also tagged on four assists against just a single turnover. Taking a look at the game, here are a few of the plays that demonstrate the skills of arguably the most dangerous guard in the entire ACC.
Christian put together an excellent game plan for Monday’s contest, effectively using Hanlan’s skillset to take advantage of Miami’s defensive scheme. Against pick and rolls, Miami prefers to have the big man guarding the screener move laterally with the ball handler, forming a less aggressive version of a trap. In order for this scheme to work, the screener must also be accounted for, since two defenders will be guarding the ball. Thus, it becomes the job of a third defender, usually on the weak side of the play, to bump the big man on his way to the rim. The defender must slow him down long enough for the big man defending the ball to retreat back to his original assignment. This, then, allows the third defender to scramble back to his own assignment before too much time has elapsed.
To combat this, Christian dictated which defender had to help on the play.
The type of play run above illustrates Christian’s tactical acumen. With only one player (in this case Patrick Heckmann) stationed on the weak side, Heckmann’s defender is the only player in the vicinity to bump the rolling Dennis Clifford or Will Magarity, with the other two nearby defenders preoccupied with the ball. Thus, as Hanlan takes the handoff and dribbles around the screen, the weak-side shooter has an open three.
Hanlan has shown great vision for this play, executing it to perfection numerous times throughout Monday’s contest. He makes plays like this all the time. He makes complicated reads seem effortless, often leading a teammate to an open jumper or dunk. Dribble handoffs leading into pick and rolls allow Hanlan to direct the defense all game long. The set gives him numerous options, showcasing his ability to dribble, pass to shooters, and penetrate the paint.
Here, Hanlan uses the screen from Clifford to drive to the rim. His explosiveness and deft touch around the basket allow him to be a threat to score in the paint every time he touches the ball.
As the game went on, Miami began to realize Hanlan’s multitude of options coming off this play, overplaying him as he attempted to get the dribble handoff from the big man at the top of the key. For a less-talented player, having the first option snuffed out would end the play, forcing the offense to reset.
Hanlan is not most players. He has a high basketball IQ and possesses the innate knowledge to try something different when his first option is cut off. Thus, with the Miami guards attempting to get between Hanlan and the ball, he decided to cut backdoor, into the space vacated by his defender. In the clip above, he slices into the paint and feeds an open Heckmann in the corner. With the defense scrambled by Hanlan’s drive, Heckmann takes the ball in for the layup. Early in the second half, on a similar play, Hanlan cut backdoor for a layup of his own, once again showing his ability to adjust on the fly.
Further distancing himself from other players, Hanlan can dominate the game playing either on or off the ball, thanks to his lethal outside shooting stroke.
Late in the first overtime, down 71-70, BC began the above play, with Brown handling the ball. With the ball out of his hands, Hanlan still showed his ability to take over. Slicing from the corner nearest the BC bench, he ran his defender, Manu Lecomte, off a double screen to take a pass from Brown in the opposite corner. Pausing only briefly to set his shoulders, Hanlan let fly a three that put BC up 73-71. The ability to be a player that can both run plays with the ball in his hands and operate plays off the ball is a special quality, and one which few ACC players possess. Despite all the defensive attention he faces, this is the reason why opposing defenses cannot eliminate Hanlan from the game. He simply adjusts his strategy based on the way the defense plays him, never forcing anything and always making the right basketball choice.
Finally, no advanced analysis is required to understand the final piece in Hanlan’s tool kit. Hanlan can create his own shot in isolation at all times, be it a jumper or drive to the hoop. His isolation jumpers, however, rest at the forefront of BC fans’ minds, as the plays often leave defenders backpedalling while Hanlan fades into an uncontested jumper.
The above play has become his signature isolation move. Hanlan will take the ball on the wing and dribble hard to the baseline as if he intends to go to the rim. Suddenly, he stops on a dime, sending his defender flying past him. He rises into an easy 15 footer. With the ability to make this shot from anywhere on the floor, Hanlan possesses the ability to keep his team in the game even if all of its offensive sets have been disrupted.
With an offensive array that is the envy of nearly every guard nationwide, Hanlan can do virtually anything his team needs. He is an elite superstar in the truest sense of the word, an unstoppable force with a counter for every defensive tactic. Now, he just needs his teammates to give him some help, as even a one-man wrecking crew like himself cannot topple the giants of the ACC, a lesson BC has learned over and over again during this arduous season.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor