Archive for Saturday, April 5, 2008

Tar Heels’ ‘Psycho T’ an intense competitor

April 5, 2008

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2008 NCAA Tournament

Final Four

2008 NCAA Tournament

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— Tyler Hansbrough's favorite "Psycho T" moment came Jan. 9, when North Carolina's basketball team played UNC-Asheville.

It was that night that Hansbrough, UNC's 6-foot-9 star forward, drove the lane and threw an eye-popping dunk down over 7-7 center Kenny George.

"It was a proud moment for me," Hansbrough said. "He probably blocked two or three of my shots before that."

It proved one thing if nothing else: Nobody ever is going to get the better of Tyler Hansbrough. Something inside him just won't let it happen.

UNC's All-American has picked up the nickname "Psycho T" because of the incredible hustle and energy he plays with on the court. It will put the drive of Kansas University's big men to the test tonight, when the Jayhawks and Tar Heels meet in the Final Four at the Alamodome.

Hansbrough is one of the country's most well known players and is averaging 22.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for the Tar Heels - one of the reasons they're 36-2 entering the huge showdown with 35-3 Kansas.

The only player with similar numbers to Hansbrough's this season is Kansas State's Michael Beasley, who had 39 points and 11 rebounds one game against KU.

Still, the comparisons between the two stop at the statistics.

"Michael scores in more ways," KU coach Bill Self said. "I think Tyler is more relentless in going after balls. He's getting 80 percent of the 50/50 balls. He doesn't allow himself to be blocked off. He just has a mind-set to him that few people have."

Hansbrough hustles so much that it almost overshadows the skills he possesses. He wouldn't be the national player of the year and a projected NBA first-round draft pick without them.

Still, there's no shame in being known for hard work, and that's the way Hansbrough views it.

"I take it as a compliment," Hansbrough said.

UNC coach Roy Williams gushes about Hansbrough, mainly because the former Kansas coach appreciates effort. In fact, Williams compared Hansbrough with another player he coached earlier in his career - Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player ever.

"Very similar on the court," Williams said. "Michael wanted to win every drill. He wanted to beat you, then he was going to tell you about it in the locker room.

"Tyler just wants to beat you. During practice they were both very similar because they wanted to win every drill, didn't want to lose, didn't want to miss a shot, didn't want to make a mistake."

Many times, that will has put Hansbrough over the top and given him such a successful college career. UNC players speculate that KU's Darnell Jackson will defend Hansbrough, perhaps in part because Jackson's motor trumps Darrell Arthur's by a long shot.

Like always, KU players didn't give away that secret. But they recognize that an extra jolt of energy on their end is required.

"He knows how to get his shot up using his body and kind of blocking you off," KU forward Sasha Kaun said. "He's definitely going to score some points. You just have to match his energy up and try to eliminate some easy points that he always gets, like dunks off offensive rebounds.

"Try to always box him out and put a body on him and kind of wear him down that way."

Hansbrough - who grew up in Poplar Bluff, Mo. - rarely has a bad game. His season-low in points is 12 against Clemson, but he got 14 rebounds that game. A 13-point effort against North Carolina State was complemented by 13 rebounds.

"If I'm in a situation where people look at it and say, 'Well he had a so-so game,' I'm the kind of guy who wants to play a little better than a so-so game," Hansbrough said.

He says it, then he proves it. Every day, every play.

Extra! Extra! Write the headline

So, just how would you capture the euphoria of victory - or, god forbid, the agony of defeat - in just a few words?

As the Jayhawks get ready for their big game against North Carolina in the Final Four, we're giving everyone a chance to submit their suggested headlines for Sunday morning's paper.

Some advice: Be clever, descriptive and, of course, concise. Remember: Your optimistic words just might end up being prophetic.

For now, we'll stick with taking ideas for the national semifinal, the one pitting Bill Self and the No. 1-seeded Jayhawks against Roy Williams and his No. 1-seeded Tar Heels.

Show off your headlines by going to www2.ljworld.com/headline and leaving your suggestion in the comments.

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