Hans­brough one HEEL of a hoops player

The Covington News - - Sports -

My co-work­ers have a twisted sense of hu­mor some­times.

De­spite be­ing fully aware of April Fools’ Day ear­lier this week, I still fell for per­haps the dirt­i­est trick one could play on me.

You see, not only am I an avid North Carolina bas­ket­ball fan, but Tyler Hans­brough has be­come some­what of a god in my house­hold— and in the of­fice, for that mat­ter. Lit­tered atop my desk is Tar Heels mem­o­ra­bilia, from a per­son­al­ized let­ter and signed book by for­mer coach Dean Smith to framed posters show­cas­ing this year’s squad, who just so hap­pen to be play­ing Kansas in the Fi­nal Four to­mor­row night in San An­to­nio.

Buried in be­tween sto­ries with dead­line loom­ing, I was handed a story off ESPN’s Web site Tues­day ti­tled “Hans­brough in­jured in wreck; ques­tion­able for re­main­der of Fi­nal Four.”

The open­ing para­graph of the re­port, which ap­peared com­pletely le­git, be­gan with “North Carolina’s Tyler Hans­brough was in­volved in a two-car ac­ci­dent this af­ter­noon…” There was even a link lo­cated along the side of the page for a more in-depth story.

Un­be­knownst to me, it wasn’t true; how­ever, my lovely col­leagues en­joyed a brief laugh, par­tic­u­larly while watch­ing the color drain from my face, if only mo­men­tar­ily, as I read the story.

Did I nearly throw up in my mouth? Ab­so­lutely. Af­ter all, Hans­brough is the face of col-

lege bas­ket­ball this sea­son, just like Kevin Du­rant was last year and J.J. Redick be­fore that.

In fact, Hans­brough, a ju­nior, is ev­ery­where on the sport­ing net­works, not to men­tion plas­tered on the cover of a re­cent Sports Il­lus­trated edi­tion, which yes, I pur­chased five copies of.

Be­ing on a top-ranked North Carolina squad cer­tainly helps get the word out. De­spite the amaz­ing sea­son Kansas State fresh­man Michael Beasley had — even more in­cred­i­ble than Du­rant did last year — no­body has meant more to his team than Hans­brough, who should be Na­tional Player of the Year.

This sea­son he av­er­aged a team-high 22.8 points per game, 10.3 re­bounds and recorded 19 dou­ble­dou­bles. He has been a part of North Carolina’s win­ningest sea­son in the pro­gram’s his­tory, help­ing the Tar Heels to an over­all 36-2 record. In ad­di­tion, he will be the eighth Tar Heel to have his jer­sey re­tired.

Re­lent­less. Mo­ti­vated. Self­driven. Choos­ing just one to de­scribe Hans­brough proves far too dif­fi­cult, as all of them ap­ply, earn­ing him the nick­name “Psy­cho-T.”

Who could dis­re­gard his 15-foot last-sec­ond jump shot to beat Vir­ginia Tech in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence tour­na­ment semi­fi­nals last month? Or those deep 18-foot jumpers over Louisville cen­ter David Pad­gett late in the game to cata- pult the Tar Heels to the Fi­nal Four on Satur­day? Or his dunk over UNC-Asheville’s 7-foot-7 (7-9 with shoes) cen­ter Kenny Ge­orge ear­lier this sea­son? Or his bro­ken nose and bloody jer­sey last year in a matchup against arch-ri­val Duke?

Cer­tainly the 6-foot-9, 250pound Hans­brough is not the best col­lege bas­ket­ball player. Yet some claim that even with­out him the Tar Heels would still be ranked num­ber one.

Hmmm…re­ally? Well, if that were the case then North Carolina wouldn’t even be play­ing Kansas, see­ing that Hans­brough sin­gle-hand­edly topped Louisville with a 28-point, 13re­bound per­for­mance on 12-of17 shoot­ing.

In that game he scored 20 of North Carolina’s 39 points dur­ing the sec­ond half, in­clud­ing seven straight when the game was tied.

Talk about a man on a mis­sion, and that’s ex­actly what Hans­brough has been on af­ter bow­ing out early to Ge­orge­town last sea­son.

Still, the haters con­tinue to scru­ti­nize him, par­tic­u­larly his ques­tion­able fu­ture in the NBA. But as many of you al­ready know, col­lege bas­ket­ball and the NBA are worlds apart.

In one hand, you have all heart, pure ded­i­ca­tion and the de­sire to win for that team printed on the front of your jer­sey. On the other hand, you have quite pos­si­bly the world’s great­est ath­letes who are sadly driven by money, egos and a lack of de­sire, es­pe­cially on the de­fen­sive end.

Play­ers such as Hans­brough are what make col­lege bas­ket­ball so spe­cial, so don’t pol­lute it with the nu­ances of what the NBA en­tails.

Granted, he doesn’t have the lux­ury of re­ly­ing on ath­letic abil­i­ties by tak­ing a day off, un­like oth­ers. But that’s ex­actly what makes No. 50 so rare — he works his tail off, whether dur­ing a game or prac­tice, and he gives it his all day in and day out.

His ef­forts prove that hard work cer­tainly pays off. Ear­lier this week, Hans­brough was a unan­i­mous First-Team Al­lAmer­ica choice by The As­so­ci­ated Press, his third se­lec­tion in as many years. He was also the unan­i­mous choice for ACC Player of the Year. Should he re­turn for his se­nior sea­son, he will have the op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing no other player has done be­fore, which is earn four con­sec­u­tive All-Amer­ica nods.

If he does in­deed re­turn, bar­ring in­jury Hans­brough will set the school’s ca­reer scor­ing record. He is cur­rently sec­ond with 2,151 points be­hind Phil Ford (2,290).

Stay or leave, the bot­tom line is col­lege bas­ket­ball needs play­ers like Hans­brough. Al­ready he has pro­vided us with a hand­ful of high­lights, and should he bolt for the NBA next year some­one else will emerge as the next face of col­lege hoops.

Then again, if Hans­brough comes back my co-work­ers will have plenty of time to con­jure up yet an­other scare.


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