Olivier Hanlan is trying to complete the journey from Boston College to the NBA
LAS VEGAS — Not so long ago, Olivier Hanlan was the hot-shooting guard out of Boston College with NBA aspirations who bolted early for the draft.
Before there was Jerome Robinson, it was Hanlan who dazzled in the ACC for a downtrodden Eagles team and then decided he was ready for the next level after his junior season.
The difference is Robinson, the 13th overall pick last month, is coveted by the Los Angeles Clippers, considered a potential cornerstone, while Hanlan is still waiting for his first NBA opportunity.
It’s been three years since Hanlan was the 42nd overall pick by the Utah Jazz. The Jazz traded his rights to the Spurs a year later and his basketball journey has taken him to Lithuania, France, and Austin, Texas.
The last stop in Texas is significant because Hanlan had to sacrifice money and make an impression by spending a season with the Spurs’ G-League affiliate. There he started 30 of 44 games and averaged 14.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists as a combo guard for the G-League champions.
Hanlan is 25 now, hardly a kid in the Las Vegas Summer League that features players born a few months shy of the year 2000. So it’s getting late early for Hanlan, he needs to make some type of impression so he can guarantee himself a trip to San Antonio’s training camp and perhaps a spot in their revamped backcourt.
Tony Parker shockingly departed for the Charlotte Hornets and the Spurs, whether or not they do trade Kawhi Leonard, are in a youth movement that Hanlan wants to be part of.
“There’s pros and cons to it, obviously being in a good organization like the Spurs, they’ll work with you, trying to get you better, it’s obviously an opportunity to keep on getting exposure,” he said. “I was over here [in the States] just grinding it out. It was a good year, trying to win a championship, that was cool.”
But Hanlan has never appeared in an NBA game and is looking at summer league rosters that are filled with journeymen and overseas standouts hoping for one final shot to make an NBA roster. Hanlan still has youth on his side but every year there is an influx of college players looking for two-way contracts and training camp invites, those who are younger and perhaps with a higher potential ceiling than Hanlan. The Spurs have their share of guards on the roster with Patty Mills, recently signed Marco Belinelli, ageless Manu Ginobili, Dejounte Murray, and Derrick White. And Hanlan, who is playing point guard in summer league because of his size, is going to have to make a major impression.
“Every journey is different and there’s a whole bunch of different types of journeys,” he said. “So you’ve just got to stick to it, don’t get too discouraged. It’s a grind man, you just have to keep going and keep going. Training camp is definitely something I’m looking forward to and I am kind of eyeing after summer league.”
Hanlan has served as a mentor to Robinson, who was the first BC player drafted since Hanlan in 2015. Robinson was considered a likely four-year player until breaking out this season in leading BC to the ACC Tournament semifinals and his stock soared higher during his pre-draft workouts.
Hanlan was Robinson’s host on his recruiting trip in 2014 and the two have remained close. Making the leap from BC to the NBA isn’t easy, and the two shared similar paths in flourishing for struggling programs.
“We go way, way, way back,” Hanlan said with a smile. “I spoke to him a bit during the pre-draft stuff and he had a real good season, scored the ball really well this year, and he’ll get a good opportunity with the Clippers this year. It was a tough decision but Jerome’s always been surrounded by a good group of people.”
Commitments to Team Canada have kept Hanlan’s basketball schedule busy.
The Canadian National Team is filled with talent with players such as Kelly Olynyk, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Dillon Brooks, Robinson’s teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph, Jamal Murray, and Trey Lyles. But the Canadians lost in the qualifier final for the 2016 Rio Games and still need to qualify for Tokyo in 2020.
Hanlan said he sprained his ankle during Team Canada training camp this summer and then chose summer league over continuing with camp.
“I’m always involved in those things,” he said. “It’s good that we have a lot of good players who are ready to step up.”
Said Olynyk about Hanlan: “He’s a great player. He’s got a great attitude, great demeanor, wants to be good, wants to put in the work, and wants to play at this level — and that’s half the battle sometimes. He’s done what everybody’s asked of him.”
The Spurs won Sunday over the Washington Wizards but Hanlan struggled from the field (1 for 6) and scored 2 points. There may not be many more opportunities to make an impression, so these final handful of games in Las Vegas could be critical.
And without a two-way contract, Hanlan may face another decision whether to remain with a G-League affiliate one more year or jump back overseas for a more lucrative contract.
“Obviously I have a lot of options in Europe but the main goal is the NBA,” he said. “I’ve got to focus on that. It’s all about situation, opportunity. You’ve got to wait your turn.”