Hopefully the first of many of these awards for the junior.
Hansbrough’s chief player of the year rival, Kansas State freshman forward Michael Beasley, comes armed with his own Akebono-sized credentials. Not only were Beasley’s averages (26.7 points and 12.6 rebounds) slightly better than Hansbrough’s (23.4 and 10.4) at week’s end, but they also exceeded those of Texas’s Kevin Durant (25.8 and 11.1) when Durant became the first freshman to be named national player of the year, last season. But Beasley’s competition for the award is stiffer than Durant’s was. Hansbrough’s individual numbers are certainly good enough; he and Beasley were two of only six players averaging at least 20 points and 10 boards. What’s more, Psycho-T has been a tougher defender, and he clearly outpaces B-Easy in the most important deal breaker: North Carolina was 27-2 and ranked No. 1 on Monday (not least because Hansbrough averaged 29.0 points during the six games that point guard Ty Lawson recently missed because of injury), while unranked Kansas State was 18-10.
Sure, Beasley is likely to be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft — at least 15 spots ahead of Hansbrough, should both declare for the pros this year — but the last time we checked, POY was a college award. “Beasley is a better player,” says Gonzaga coach Mark Few, “but with the year Carolina has had and the fact that [Hansbrough] plays every second like it’s his last, I’d vote for him. When we were getting ready to play Carolina [last season], we’d show clips of him to our guys and say, ‘See, this is what we mean when we talk about playing hard.’ He’s putting out more effort for longer stretches than most college players can even begin to understand. And he’s certainly great for college basketball.”
Hansbrough’s credentials are impressive enough, but it’s hard not to give him bonus points for squeezing out every bit of his potential, for never coasting, for giving three All-America seasons to the college game during an era in which nobody expects more than one. “Tyler is not even the most gifted player on my team, much less the most gifted player in college basketball,” says Williams. “But no one has a bigger heart. No one has more desire than Tyler Hansbrough.”
This sums up pretty well what I think the real case for Hansbrough as NPOY. Yes, Michael Beasley has better raw numbers but the intangibles, the winning and the fact his level of play went up about sixteen notches when Ty Lawson went out and through all that UNC became the #1 team in the country while Kansas State is looking at sweating out Selection Sunday is fairly compelling.
Also, Hansbrough will likely pass Antawn Jamison and Larry Miller on the all time scoring list tonight and if he scores 35 or more he will pass the 2000 point mark, only the sixth Tar Heel to do so.