GREENSBORO -- There wasn’t much of a crowd to kick off the ACC tournament with Georgia Tech playing Boston College, which is a mistake anyone who filtered in over the course of the game won’t make again.
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College’s star athlete from Quebec who isn’t a hockey player, is clearly worth the price of admission. Early admission.
With a career-high 41 points, an ACC tournament record for a freshman, Hanlan almost single-handedly shot the Eagles into the quarterfinals with a 84-64 win even after they faced what looked like certain elimination in the opening minutes.
Down 15-0 early, fought back on Hanlan’s back -- including a one-man full-court press, stealing an inbounds pass for a lay-in, that gave Boston College its first lead late in the first half. The Eagles never looked back, and with the record in the balance, Ryan Anderson passed up an open look in the lane to set up Hanlan for a 3-pointer that rattled around, off the backboard and through the hoop.
Hanlan received 44 of 77 votes in ACC freshman-of-the-year voting, well ahead of Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon and N.C. State’s T.J. Warren, despite criticism starting for Boston College wasn’t the same as starting for, say, Duke. Anyone who took that stance should have been watching Thursday afternoon, when Hanlan was by far the best player on the court -- including Georgia Tech senior point guard Mfon Udofia and any number of more highly recruited teammates.
One of the big questions about Steve Donahue at Boston College is not whether he can coach -- the record’s pretty clear that he can, and he did with the talent Al Skinner left him in Chestnut Hill -- but whether he can recruit ACC-caliber talent. Hanlan, without a doubt, fits that description
So does fellow freshman guard Joe Rahon. Now it’s up to Donahue to fill in the rest of his roster with similar players, perhaps not McDonald’s all-Americans like Sulaimon or Warren, but others who can beat out McDonald’s all-Americans to win freshman of the year -- and win an ACC tournament game or two.