Tyler Hansbrough: The Early Years

I ran across this article in the River Front Times from September 1st, 2004 featuring the Hansbrough brothers, particular Tyler during his senior year at Poplar Bluff High School.  It is a fairly long read but worth for some of the insight you get into Hansbrough before he came to UNC including talk of jumping right to the NBA out of high school if he was projected in the lottery.  I have posted a couple of excerpts after the jump but feel free to head over there and read the whole thing.

Having laced up, the foursome splits into pairs: Ben and Phillip, Tyler and Gene. Ben’s workout commences with a slew of jumpers from beyond the three-point circle. Where it will go from there is anyone’s guess.

“You’re welcome to ask Ben what he’s doing today,” quips Gene. “Because every day is different.”

Not so with Tyler, who begins his regimen without a ball, performing footwork and agility drills. When college coaches saw this routine before an Eagles game at the Nike-sponsored AAU Peach Jam tourney in Augusta in mid-July, they were clearly befuddled. Just what is this kid doing, especially in this flashy day and age?

After an exhaustive set of off-ball maneuvers, Tyler launches into what he calls “five-dribble moves” from half-court, such drives being a liability in his game that he’s bent on correcting. He then spends five minutes on a “Mikan Drill” — a rapid-fire series of layups from alternating sides of the bucket, named for Minneapolis Lakers big man George Mikan.

Next Tyler positions himself on the right block in the key and has Gene throw him 30 passes, followed by 30 more to the left block. Upon receiving each pass, Tyler executes a drop-step move to the hoop, sometimes dunking, sometimes fading away and launching a soft jumper. Following a brief break for a swig of water, Tyler shoots a long set of elbow jumpers, permitting himself to launch three-pointers only after he has made five consecutive midrange shots from six pre-designated points on the floor.

Tyler Hansbrough’s got game, though there are deficiencies in his arsenal. (In fact, he goes so far as to jot down his shortcomings after each tournament.) Still in need of improvement are his perimeter moves, outside shooting, on-ball defense and a nagging habit of dribbling unnecessarily before shooting from close range, which often allows opponents to foul him before he can convert an easy two.

One critique trumpeted by Web pundits rings false: that Tyler lacks athleticism. Any kid who can execute a between-the-legs-in-midair helicopter slam to win his state tournament’s dunk contest does not want for raw athletic ability. The critique is lazy, an age-old stereotype of the white basketball player that’s as stale as calling black football quarterbacks dumb.

If anything, says Eagles assistant Eric Long, Tyler should maybe open himself up to the prospect of playing more pickup games (according to Gene Hansbrough, Tyler loathes them, in contrast to Ben). Doing so when there’s nothing on the line would allow him to experiment and to improve the instinctive nature of his game.

“Tyler’s not a fluid athlete,” Long elaborates. “He’s more of a mechanical athlete. He needs a go-to move in the post, but he’ll run through a wall to get better.”

Two things.

1. The work ethic was insane then.  I am sure coaches were “befuddled” watching a high school kid doing various fundamentals drills as part of the daily regimen.  That kind of constant repeition can only serve to build consistency and Hansbrough is all about consistency.

2. Interesting read there on the list of aspects about his game he needs to improve and the fact that, at this point, many of those things have improved.  His on the ball defense is very good now, he keeps increasing the range on his jumper and while he the dribbling might be an issue, it does not seem to lead to very many turnovers.

All in all, the evidence was there four years ago just how hard Hansbrough works and the fact he continues to work that hard is an incredible story.


7 Responses to Tyler Hansbrough: The Early Years

  1. Will says:

    If he started knocking down the 3 ball like Love and Beasley, his NBA status would not be in doubt. But I don’t think that is part of UNC’s offense. Do you ever remember Jamison shooting a 3 in college? I don’t, and he does that all the time in the NBA.

  2. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Except that a lot of the times they start the offense by passing the ball to Hansbrough at the top of the key and then he works from there or passes off. If they do that and he pops a three and hits it, the opposing big man will have to honor that which could open up the middle for Deon or even backdoor cuts. So in respect, add a three point jumper and seeing the court/passing the ball better would be another facet other teams have to guard.

  3. C. Michael says:

    “”If I’m a lottery pick, I’m going,” Tyler says flatly, in reference to the top fourteen selections in each June’s National Basketball Association draft.”

    You know, if UNC doesn’t win the title in ’05, and May and Williams come back (Felton and McCants were gone, regardless), it is entirely possible that Hansbrough would have been a projected lottery pick. I’ll tell you, that 2005 title is the gift that keeps on giving!!

  4. Will says:

    I think UNC’s offense is about percentages, and Tyler is so good down low that is where we want him taking his shots. Contrariwise, Jawad was better on the perimeter, and Roy let him shoot from out there most of the time. I believe Roy has said it is better to have a 4/5 who can hit from outside because they frees your good post player to go to work without a quick double team.

    Interestingly, Roy has recuited some big players who can shoot in the Wear twins and John Henson. Should be fun to watch.

  5. C. Michael says:

    The Wears and Henson seem to be perfect compliments to Stepheson/Thompson/Zeller and Davis… man. after typing that, it is hard to believe how loaded the 2008-09 team will be! It’s a good time to be a Heel fan!!

  6. Will says:

    And with the expanded 3 point line, that will give our bigs even more room to operate.

  7. william says:

    Grant Wahl has a good line in Sports Illustrated this week, where he said if you are evaluating the kids in tourney based upon their NBA potential, then you are missing the point and might as well watch the NBA instead.

    Not to mention, whose to say a player doesn’t get injured anyway. Look at Grant Hill–without his college career no one would remember him 50 years from now, and the fact that half those guys that we are told are so perfect for the NBA game, we never hear about again.

    Next time someone tells you how great football player X is, on a team that you don’t like, just tell them that you don’t think he would make it in the Canadian Football League….

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