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Tyler Hansbrough: The Early Years

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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.

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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.