I missed this ten days ago but ESPN's Andy Glockner discussed the returning senior class and spoke to Tyler Hansbrough about returning to UNC
Come November, Tyler Hansbrough will be the nation's most-hyped senior save for John McCain. The defending Naismith Award winner will be the first to return to school since Virginia's Ralph Sampson in 1982-83, and he is arguably the best player to return for his senior season since Wake Forest's Tim Duncan did for 1996-97. Simply put, players like Hansbrough don't spend four years on campus anymore.
But although being the de facto face of college basketball might seem like enough to at least consider shunning first-round NBA draft status and the guaranteed millions that come with it, Hansbrough's decision to return to Chapel Hill was the result of more time-honored (and, in this era, archaic) thinking.
"I really enjoy going to school and being around my teammates, so it wasn't necessary for me to leave, and I didn't feel like I needed anybody or anything," Hansbrough said. "I love the situation here. It's going to be tough to beat that, so I figure I can wait one more year and improve on a lot of different things and hopefully be in a better situation next year for when I do have to go."
Disarmingly self-aware for a guy who averaged 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds a game, Hansbrough explained that he wants to continue to extend the range on the face-up jumper he started to show last season. He also wants to work on improving his passing, defensive footwork and shot-blocking presence. At the college level, this is like nitpicking a brushstroke on a masterpiece, but it makes sense for his pro hopes.
Hansbrough is also driven for one more chance at team glory after Carolina suffered disappointing regional final and Final Four losses the past two seasons. To that end, he received big news on Monday when running mates Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all withdrew from the NBA draft and announced they'll return for the upcoming season. With virtually everyone back, the Tar Heels should be the strong preseason favorite to win it all.
Before his teammates made their final draft decisions, Hansbrough laughed at suggestions that he was Carolina's version of Corey Brewer, who orchestrated the surprising return of Florida's core for another national title run in 2006-07. That the Heels will now face that same type of title-or-bust pressure, though, should suit Hansbrough just fine. Although winning the Naismith Award again would be a historic accomplishment, it's not why he came back.
"It seems like, at the end, no matter what individual award that you win, there's always that dissatisfying feeling at the end when you don't win the whole thing," he said. "… A lot of people would say, 'What else do you have to accomplish?' For me, I've always wanted to win a national championship."
If you told me to make a list of areas I would like to see Tyler Hansbrough improve heading into next season it would have been those four areas probably in this order: passing, jumper, defensive footwork, shot blocking. The fact he is aware of it and will be spending the next 120 days or so working on it should make us all very happy. If he becomes really efficient in all of those areas, we will be doing back flips outside Ford Field next April.
Intertwined in his desire to improve these areas in his game(three of which are not point scoring in nature) is the desire to win a national title. While folks might be lining Hansbrough up for a 2nd Naismith, I would not be surprised if we saw his point production recede a bit as he seeks to make his teammates better and accomplish the goal of winning a national title. Granted his consistency in the post still makes him the best offensive option on the floor for the Heels, but if he can improve his passing game it will give defenses fits as will hitting 15-18 foot jumpers on a regular basis.
The intangibles he brings might be where this title is won or lost. Winning a national title is about having just an ounce or two more than every one else. Hansbrough, like George Lynch and Jawad Williams before him, could be that one guy all title teams have that pushes his team and gives them that something extra to get them across that line.