Despite plenty of individual accolades last season, BC’s two best players, Ryan Anderson and Olivier Hanlan, took their games to a whole different level this summer. Here’s how they did it…
Finding A Balance
While criticism can often make a player put his head down, the knocks on his game that Olivier Hanlan heard this offseason have helped him to, literally, pick his head up. One of the best scorers in the conference, Hanlan knows that people think he can’t create for his teammates. He’s ready to prove those doubters wrong.
“Last year I scored the ball a lot, but my assists per game were kind of low,” Hanlan said. “I was really just working on that. Just coming off ball screens and making it easy for my teammates to get open shots and everything. Going and being at the Chris Paul camp and talking to Chris Paul—he’s the best in the league at finding his guys and picking his spots. I just kind of brought that to practice.
“Instead of always being aggressive for my shot, I’m coming off the ball screen with my head up and it’s a lot easier to see everybody. I just pick my spots. I’ll attack a big and draw a defender and get Drag or whoever’s open open shots.”
It’s helped Hanlan that there is less pressure to create on his own now.
“He just has a better understanding of what he’s looking for in the pick-and-roll,” Anderson said. “Last year, it’s not like he was a selfish player, he was just an aggressive player. Now he understands there’s more than one way to be aggressive. You can be aggressive by surveying the court. You can be aggressive by attacking. You can be aggressive by sitting behind the screen and shooting a three if they give it to you.
“There’re so many different ways that you can attack the defense in a pick-and-roll situation. He’s finding ways to score it more often, whether it’s a floater or it’s a pull-up, and he’s finding ways to kick it out to guys like Alex and Patrick and guys that can just make shots. I think it’s really just about efficiency with him. He wants to be really good, and the best way to do that is just to be efficient. Limit your turnovers and shoot a high percentage, and he’s been doing that so far.”
Still, Donahue wants Hanlan to make the best play with the ball, and a lot of times that means he should, like last season, keep it for himself and score.
“Last year, we needed him to score quite a bit,” Donahue said. “As much as you want him to do this and do that, there were certain times when we needed him to get to the rims and make plays, and we still do. I think there’re times were he needs to find his teammates, but that’s just a piece of it.
“Yeah, I’d like to see him get more people involved, but he has a unique skill that we can’t overlook. He scores in different ways against almost anybody. He’s maybe our best standstill shooter as well. I don’t want to overdo it with trying to get everybody involved, because his natural instinct is to go by somebody and score. And if it’s the right decision, which a lot of times it is, there’s no reason for him to kick it to somebody else if he in turn has a high percentage shot.”
Although he held his own guarding the ball last season, Hanlan struggled with help defense off the ball. To Donahue, a lot of that had to do with overthinking things.
“I want him to be more aggressive,” Donahue said. “When he worries about being in the right place, he’s actually very conservative in his approach. I need him to really think next play—how can I get there. Usually good things happen, because he has really good instincts when he does that.”
Donahue has worked with Hanlan on breaking free defensively. Rather than making sure he’s in the exact right spot when his man is two or three passes away from the ball, it’s better for BC if Hanlan stands in a spot where he thinks he can steal a skip pass and go the other way.
“He’s ready to prove that he can get steals a lot of times off the ball, whether it’s digging into the postorgettingintopassinglanes,” Anderson said. “That’ll really ignite our offense, and any time you can get Olivier with the ball in transition, you want that.”
A quiet player on the court last year, Hanlan has already been much more vocal in practices this fall. Occasionally the coaches will still have to remind him to talk, but not much more than the typical reminders they give to other players. That communication has helped him grow as a leader, but it has also let the BC defense grow as a whole.
“When you open your mouth on defense,” Hanlan said, “it makes it a lot easier.”
The off-ball defense is just a small part of the large improvement Anderson and Donahue have seen from Hanlan as he becomes a better all-around player.
“In general, now, I think he’s really good with the basketball, and I think he’s really good defensively on the ball,” Donahue said. “It’s all the other aspects, playing off the ball defensively—I think he can be someone that can lead the league in steals. I think he can be a great rebounder. I think he can be a great facilitator of the offense when the ball gets swung to him with his decision making.”
“Olivier is focused on becoming an all-around player,” Anderson said. “He’s a better defender, he’s a better passer—whether it’s kicking it to me or kicking it to shooters—I think our scrimmage is a great example of that. He had six rebounds and eight assists, I don’t know if he had that all last season.”
All Hands On Deck
When the best shooters miss, the ball sails long or short, not left and right. For all of Anderson’s prolific skills as a scorer, that’s the one aspect he’s struggled with most throughout his first two years at BC. His left hand has consistently flown off the ball during his release, leaving his right shooting hand to guide the direction of the shot on its own. It’s led to a shooting touch, especially on open mid-range jumpers, that can look great on one shot and poor on the next.
Anderson spent the offseason working on his release, especially holding his off-hand on the ball for more time.
“It’s just knowing that I have a better feel for the basketball when I’m shooting it,” Anderson said. “It’s not really a guessing game. I think it’ll translate well for me this year, hopefully.”
The transition hasn’t been perfect, though. When Anderson is rushed, his off-hand will sometimes float away more than he would like, but those issues go away when he makes sure to set his feet. He’s also noticed an improvement in his efficiency from the foul line.
“Any time my feet are set I feel extremely confident, whether I’m in a fastbreak situation, set offense, anything like that,” Anderson said. “I feel very comfortable.”
Anderson gets plenty of looks in Donahue’s offense from the elbows and even the 3-point line. Adding a consistent touch from those spots won’t just make him a more efficient shooter, but it will also allow him to effectively pump-fake and drive, either finishing himself or kicking it to open teammates.
It took a daily commitment to put up multiple repetitions with the new form for Anderson to get to this point, and that’s another way in which Anderson, now a captain, has matured. His work ethic is much better than it was his freshman year.
“I didn’t do everything on a daily basis to be a great player on a great team,” Anderson said. “I was just a good player on a not-so-good team.”
“Where he’s come, he’s made such growth in his daily preparation, work ethic, weight room sessions. Everything is showing up because he’s just been willing to be coached,” Donahue said.
Changing Habits, Building A Foundation
Anderson has never looked more comfortable physically on a basketball court during his college career than he has during practices this fall. After trimming body fat and adding muscle this offseason, he can finally reciprocate the punishment opposing big men put on him early in his career.
“He dedicated himself to changing his body, and it shows,” Donahue said. “He’s way better laterally, plays longer, jumping quicker taking a hit, all those things are a credit to how much he’s done.”
Anderson honed in on an aspect of his game during all of his physical work over the offseason. The four inches added to his vertical leap will help with dunking and rebounding, 15 added pounds on the bench press will give him more strength to use against centers in the paint, and his quicker time in sprints will let him switch on to guards in pick-and-roll.
“He’s done a good job,” Donahue said. “He’s moving way better than he ever did. I think obviously the defensive end has been our Achilles’ Heel for the younger group, so if he can continue to battle physically with bigs and then keep people in front it just gives us so much more versatility on the defensive end.”
Anderson came into college as a power forward, but, as long as he can hold up defensively, he and Donahue think he can help the team more as a center.
“I think the advantage of having Ryan at the five is that he’s such a skilled basketball player with the ball, so if he’s your five man, the ability to find guys and go by guys and make plays for others, it’s such a great asset to have,” Donahue said. “And then if he can hold his own physically at the same time it obviously makes us a much better team.”
The added athleticism also gives Anderson an edge in consistency, both late in games and deep into the season. He won’t get as worn down battling centers for position on either end, and that also applies to the mental toll post play can take.
“I really learned how to approach the mental side of being a five man, being a leader, being all of that kind of stuff,” Anderson said. “The mental side of the game is really going to help me this season.”