The rarest of all birds, a national player of the year returning to play his fourth season.
UNC fans should line their calendars up now because barring unforseen circumstances something special is coming in November and can be seen in local arenas possibly into April. In these days of earlier NBA defections, Tyler Hansbrough will do something simply unheard of, return to for his senior season after accomplishing so much individually. A perfect storm of dominant college skill that does not quite translate to the NBA has made this possible and as a Tar Heel fan I am thrilled at the chance to witness it.
It is rare enough to have that once in a few decades type of player and now even more so for that player to remain all four years. Looking back at UNC history I would think Phil Ford finishing his UNC career as the all time leading scorer and NPOY is the last time Tar Heel fans witnessed that special senior season. Yes there have been three other Heels who have had their jersey retired but in all three cases they left as juniors for the NBA and in many ways the fans were robbed of seeing them play one more time once their greatness was known.
The aspect of Hansbrough’s return that will be compelling is the fact he is already at the pinnacle among the greatest of Tar Heel players. Hansbrough already has the NPOY awards necessary to place his jersey on the front row. His stats are an incredible testimony to his skill and dominance on the court. In most cases players need the full four years to truly establish their greatness or as inidcated above they reach it then head to the NBA. No so this time and the benefit for we, the fans, is seeing him play one more season of games knowing Hansbrogh is one of greatest Tar Heel players ever. We are afforded a farewell tour of sorts from Hansbrough and we understand that the sheer nature of this being his final season could mean something special might happen. Records will fall but beyond that the one thing that would truly set him apart is to own the records and a national title ring.
This kind of season, should it end up in the Final Four come next April, is a story CBS will find almost too good to be true. A player like Hansbrough making a return trip to the Final Four with one last chance to attain the greatest prize his sport has to offer is gold for the media. For the fan it will simply be a incredible moment that has its odds of success increased dramatically should Lawson and Ellington return. Even if they do not, is it possible that Hansbrough could put this team on his back and carry them to the title he covets so much?
Anything is possible and regardless of how it ends up, UNC fans will be be treated to something they may never happen again. His place is not in question and by the seventh or eighth game of the season Hansbrough’s statistical prowess will be unmatched. Having Hansbrough return and play his senior season will be like watching a living legend take the court in a four months plus encore performance.
And we are very fortunate to be along for the journey.