PACERS: Hansbrough Looks the Part

November 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Indiana Pacers

“I feel like people have been doubting me ever since my college game started,” says Tyler Hansbrough.

 

There is no hurt behind the assertion. There has been way too much of it for him to take it personal anymore. If there was a time the kind of doubt Hansbrough is talking about ever bothered him there is no trace of it on his 6-8 frame now. The Indiana Pacers rookie feels like he is right where he should be.

 

“No, I didn’t feel surprised I got taken so high,” Hansbrough says of his controversial 13th overall selection at the NBA draft. He might have been the only one outside of Indiana. “There were some other possibilities where I could have gone higher but I didn’t feel any added pressure.”

 

Hansbrough was a dominant force in the college ranks, a career that played out through a dazzling four-year run at the University of North Carolina culminating in a NCAA championship last March. He exited college as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time leading scorer, more a testament to his full tour of duty and NCAA tournament games. Since then Hansbrough’s heart of a lion demeanor that was the backbone of that Tarheels squad has been called into question, as in – will it be enough to keep him in the NBA? Known as a relentless worker on both ends of the floor and in the gym there are many who believe it is that ethic alone – and not any great natural or individual ball skill – that has kept him relevant for so long. There are few outside of his circle that believed that it could translate into a successful NBA career where such dedication and studious training aren’t so uncommon. The questions were about the skill and many observers felt his impact would have a huge drop off at the next level. If that’s because he isn’t ‘the man’ anymore – a difficult swallow for many rookies – then so be it. Then again, he wasn’t really ‘the man’ at UNC either, it just felt like it.

 

“It’s just another phase where I feel like people are doubting me again,” says the four-time All-American. He looks off and to the side as if he expects the haters to appear out of thin air. It is a late November evening and Hansbrough is looking up from studying a scouting report about an hour before a game night tip-off. Even off the court his eyes look like they belong on a deer caught in between a truck and who knows what. Alas, that’s always been the trick about Hansbrough, that he just doesn’t look like he should be able to do what he does.

 

is His I don’t really listen to those guys,” he makes of the doubters. “I just use it as motivation sometimes.”

 

‘The knock’ has followed him almost from the second he cut down the twine in Michigan. It was there throughout the NBA draft when Pacers president Larry Bird shocked the world by selecting Hansbrough 13th overall, making him a lottery selection and plucking him 10 to 25 spots early, depending on who was in your head on the lead up to draft night. It has followed him into the early season as well, despite some solid first steps in the pros.

 

“I feel like there are some things that I do well that maybe they didn’t really see at first,” says Hansbrough. “I feel like the more I get comfortable and my practice time goes up then I’ll start seeing more minutes.”

 

Through a quarter of the NBA season Hansbrough is averaging seven points and 3.8 rebounds in just over 15 minutes a contest. He was a bit of a late start after re-aggravating an old right shin injury over the summer and missed six weeks recovering from the setback. His 38.8 field goal shooting is ugly, particularly for a player living way down on the offensive depth chart. The Pacers are looking for better decision making from Hansbrough and he knows it.

 

“I’m willing to get better and work everyday,” he continues. “There’s more things to it… you have to understand the game. You can’t just go out there and work hard, you have to pick up on the offences and defenses to be effective and help the team.”

 

And boy, do the Pacers need help. The season is young and Indy has already gone through two losing streaks of four or more games. A quick five-game winning streak on the front end of November showed promise but there is little leadership among the delicate egos in Indiana. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is actually back and playing but he’s still a shell, Dahntay Jones is new muscle, Roy Hibbert is coming on strong and Danny Granger’s All-Star start has been stalled by sudden injury. It’s topsy-turvy world in Indiana and Hansbrough is smart enough to know when there is opportunity to be seized.

 

“I feel like the way we play (is that) we get up and down so I think everybody’s going to get in,” says Hansbrough. His eyes drop back to the scouting report waiting in his hand. “This year’s there’s some spots where guys can step in and really help themselves.”