BC expecting big things from PG Hanlan

It's hard to go up when you start at the top.

That's the logic many college hoops fans may apply to Boston College sophomore point guard Olivier Hanlan.

The Aylmer, Quebec, native was named the 2012-13 ACC Rookie of the Year after averaging a team-high 15.4 points in 34.2 minutes per game. A few days after receiving that news, he burst onto the national radar screen with a 41-point outburst against Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament.

That was the most points anyone had scored in a single ACC tourney game since 1970, and the most ever by a freshman -- breaking former North Carolina standout Harrison Barnes' mark of 40 set in 2011. He hit eight 3-pointers in the game, one short of the tournament record, and finished 14-for-18 from the field.

But Hanlan is no one-game wonder.

A 6-foot-4, 184-pound point guard with a scorer's mentality, Hanlan led the Eagles in scoring in 11 of their 33 games, one more than sophomore forward Ryan Anderson for the team lead.

His performance against the Yellow Jackets in the ACC tourney caught the eye of someone who knows well the challenge Hanlan faces as a reigning rookie of the year. Dana Barros won the Big East Rookie of the Year award in 1985-86, starring at Boston College after the Boston native had been a star in high school at Xaverian.

How did he handle the pressure of improving on an award-winning rookie season?

"I don't think I acknowledged it much at that time," Barros, who now works in community relations for the Celtics, said in a recent phone interview. "It was a great honor when you look back at it now, but to me that was in the past, and the Big East was such a challenge. [Winning rookie of the year] didn't matter to other people. I knew I had to prepare myself and it didn't matter if I was rookie of the year or not, I still worked just as hard."

Barros believes Hanlan will do the same thing.

"I look forward to seeing him mature this year," he said. "He's got the confidence and I look forward to seeing him mature more."

BC coach Steve Donahue feels the same way.

"I think you'll see a huge jump," the coach said at the basketball media day for Massachusetts' college programs. "Olivier is a kid that's made dramatic improvements in the six months that he hasn't played. He's made incredible physical advancements and has done a tremendous job with his skill level and now his maturity level and IQ and understanding what it takes is so much better."

Hanlan had a busy summer -- he was invited to the Nike Point Guard Skills Academy and a handful of NBA players' camps.

"There's obviously some pressure coming with that ACC Rookie of the Year," he said. "But I've been working real hard, even harder than last summer. I got a chance to go to a couple of NBA camps, the Deron Williams one and the LeBron one and the Chris Paul one and got a chance to just improve a lot and just learn so much.

"So I already feel I got so much better than last year so hopefully I can translate that to this upcoming season."

He also rededicated himself in the weight room, which is noteworthy. Hanlan admitted he took ribbing from teammates for his dislike of some of the "harder exercises" in his freshman season. He said he did a lot of squats this offseason, to get his legs in shape for the grind.

The Eagles finally have some real experience, returning the highest percentage of minutes (95.9), points (96.3), (95.7), assists (97.5), steals (97.3) and blocks (97.7) in the ACC from 2012-13 to 2013-14, meaning they've gone from being a young team to the most experienced team in the conference.

They'll need to draw on that experience to survive -- and, they hope, thrive -- in a beefed-up ACC that welcomes Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame this season and Louisville (2012-13 national champs) next season.

"It got a lot harder with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh," Hanlan said. "But that's just more competition and I like that. I've always been like that, since I was a little kid."

Hanlan put extra emphasis on late-game execution this offseason.

"Just being more poised down the stretch. We lost a lot of close games last year, against Duke, against Miami, it always came down to one or two possessions," he said. "I'm gonna handle that a lot better this year.

"I've been working on every single aspect, my shot got a lot better, my 3-point shot got a lot better, I'm gonna be more aggressive on offense and just finding my teammates a little better this year is gonna help my teammates just build their confidence up."

His coach believes the work will pay off.

"I just think you're gonna see a much more complete basketball player than you saw last year," Donahue said. "Last year I thought he got better as the year went on. But in my mind I still [said], 'I wonder how he's gonna do today?' I'm pretty sure we're gonna get a real good effort every game."

The Eagles lost nine games last season by 10 points or less, including games against NC State, Miami, Maryland, Duke and Florida State.

"I think we showed a glimpse of it last year, just competing the whole game," Hanlan said of the Eagles being ready to compete in the ACC. "Even just seeing pickups lately, so many guys are just a lot more confident.

"We're gonna make a push and win those tight ones this year."

Win those close games this season, and there's only one way to go for Hanlan and the Eagles: Up.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.