Who is the ACC FrOY? Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon or Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan?Posted by Jimmy Kelley on February 15th, 2013
Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsInDurham.
There are two awards in each conference that spark the most debate — Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. While one has many different definitions and, depending on whom you ask, could be given to three or four different players every year, the other is much more objective. The ACC Freshman of the Year is given annually to the first-year player who has had the most outstanding season. Nothing about value, impact or how good the respective player’s team was, just that he had an outstanding season. With this being the generally agreed-upon criteria, the two players who should be at the top of everyone’s watch list this season are Rasheed Sulaimon of Duke and Olivier Hanlan of Boston College.
Let’s start with Sulaimon. A freshman from Houston, he was the all-everything wing player that Duke has always been able to convince to come to Durham. A participant in the Jordan Brand Classic and McDonald’s All-American Game, Sulaimon came in with sky-high expectations and despite a few down games has lived up to them. He’s averaged 11.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 42 percent from the field, 39.8 percent from the three-point line, and providing outstanding on-ball defense that has helped Duke keep some of the league’s best wing players from going off. He has been the perfect complement to Seth Curry, especially given the senior’s injury issues, and he has been able to give Duke a reliable third scorer in the absence of Ryan Kelly. If there was a most valuable freshman award, Sulaimon would take that award home.
Then there’s Hanlan. Arguably the best player on a middling Boston College team that is still picking up the pieces left behind from Al Skinner’s departure, Hanlan has come on in recent weeks and proven to be a legitimate ACC player who will find himself on a few all-conference teams before his time in Chestnut Hill is through. A product of Canada by way of New Hampshire’s New Hampton School, Hanlan flew about as far under the radar as possible during his prep years. As a freshman he is averaging 13.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from deep. The shooting percentages are low as a result of Hanlan playing the point — not his natural position — and carrying much of the offensive load on nights when Ryan Anderson is down. In BC’s near-upset of Duke on February 10, Hanlan got into the paint at will and to the line for 12 free throws, finishing 11-of-12 for a game-high 20 points. He also had strong nights against Miami (8-of-14, 16 points) and North Carolina (7-of-15, 6-of-7 FT, 22 points) in his last five games.
So after looking at these two players resumes, who has had the more outstanding season? In terms of pure production, the nod goes to Hanlan, but if you factor in the defensive end of the floor, Sulaimon gets the nod despite Hanlan averaging more steals per game. Sulaimon gets the nod once again if you factor in team success, but Hanlan had one of his better games while playing against Duke which makes it just a slight edge for the young Blue Devil. When looking at who has had a bigger impact on their team, Hanlan gets a slight edge because without him, I’m not sure BC even has the four ACC wins they have.
Ultimately, this decision comes down to one play where each player had a chance to use their best basketball quality against each other. With time ticking down, Hanlan had the ball at the top of the key down one against Duke while Sulaimon crouched in a defensive stance just a foot or two away from him. Hanlan went right, Sulaimon slid with him, the shot went up, and it ultimately missed the target. Sulaimon’s defense forced a Hanlan miss and Duke left BC with a win.