After he enjoyed such great success at North Carolina, playing for the Tar Heels, many pro scouts never thought Tyler Hansbrough would be talented enough to do anything in the NBA.
However, his play in college epitomized the type of player that Larry Bird loves to pick up in the draft: a four-year collegiate athlete who is a proven leader and carried his team on his back. So, they went ahead and took the chance on the North Carolina star.
Bird also stated that Hansbrough reminded Bird of himself when he was coming into the NBA. Not only are they both undersized forwards at 6’9”, but both of them were doubted as they pursued their professional career.
Obviously, Bird became a legend and led his Boston Celtics teams to three championships while he was in the league, but Bird hopes that Hansbrough can do the same in proving doubters wrong.
So, given the opportunity, he broke into the league with a chip on his shoulder, ready to start a career with a target on his back. After all, if he can do it against bigger, stronger opponents in college, who’s to say he can’t do it in the NBA?
His first year was cut short, however, when he went out with an inner ear infection 29 games into the season. Complications with that injury forced him to sit out the rest of the season after averaging 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a game to start off his career.
This offseason, though, Larry Bird said that he looks for Hansbrough to become a bigger part of this team in this upcoming season after the loss of Troy Murphy. Hansbrough will split that time with Indiana native Josh McRoberts.
Yet, the season opener arrived and Hansbrough still was an afterthought as he sat out the whole game.
“He’s behind. You earn your playing time. He missed a year of basketball. Anybody that walks in and thinks he’s just going to get playing time, that’s not going to happen,” Coach Jim O’Brien told the Indianapolis Star.
Hansbrough must have caught up fast, however, because he was back in action Friday night as the Pacers took on the Bobcats.
Not only did he score 12 points off the bench, but he came up with one crucial rebound down the stretch which followed by two made free throws to put the Pacers ahead by three. He also knocked down a mid-range jumper from the baseline to put Indiana ahead in the last two minutes of the game.
His energy also impacted the game a lot as the game wore on. Out-hustling opponents for long rebounds and loose balls will be the story of his career, as it was in college. However, what he did tonight was no less than helping them edge out the Bobcats, a 2009 playoff team.
So, yes, he has a long way to go, but tonight proved that Hansbrough is ready to have an impact on this league. He has shown time and time again that he will execute in crunch-time and will out-work anyone. That type of attitude and go-get-it mentality will only help him as he continues to develop as a professional player.