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Enjoying One Carolinian's Work For Just What It Is

A Daily Babble Production

For at least one more week, the fact that I don't think a certain forward from North Carolina is going to make a great pro basketball player doesn't matter.

Or perhaps more accurately, it isn't relevant (I don't have the pomposity to presume that my postulations on the matter would be of great concern at this point to the player in question or the powers that be in the NBA).

That it seems from the view on my couch that he might well not to have the speed, agility, hops, defense or smarts to master his counterparts in the NBA front-court just isn't all that significant in any capacity.

That's because Tyler Hansbrough has at least one more weekend of college basketball left to play, and in that realm, he has done more than enough to warrant himself worthy of his share of props.

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Whether or not this is Hansbrough's collegiate swan song remains to be seen.  But since there is certainly a possibility that it could be, the time seems right to dedicate some space to a guy whose amateur career hasn't been enjoyed enough by yours truly.

As an NBA fan and writer first and foremost, sometimes it's all too easy to get completely wrapped up in looking at basketball solely from a pro-centric standpoint.  That's too bad on my part, because that isn't the way it has to be.  I love the NBA, but above that, I love the game of basketball.  It's a game that can be played beautifully in a variety of ways at different levels, and it is only fair to give the players we watch the benefit of judging them at least part of the time on their performance at the level at which they are currently playing rather than the level they might be competing at some day.

Guys like Tyler Hansbrough are the best reminders we have of this.

Chances are that it's because of the NBA-tinted lens through which I examine nearly everything and my contention that Hansbrough won't be a great pro that I haven't appreciated his career at North Carolina as much as I probably should have thus far.  So after the few brief comments above, I'm done spending word space on the problems the junior power forward might encounter at some future time.

Because what it took me far too long to enjoy is the fact that this man-child is an excellent college basketball player.

By now, you've likely heard about the numbers and the accolades.  Dude averaged a solid 18 and 8 over his first two seasons and upped that to 22.8 points and 10.3 boards per game this season while shooting 54 percent from the field and nearly 81 percent from the line to boot.  A unanimous choice for All-American this season.  A 28-points, 13-rebound effort in the biggest game of the year, a victory over Louisville in the Elite Eight.  For the first time in his tenure at Chapel Hill, his Tar Heels have reached the Final Four as well.

But what makes the beast fans so aptly call Psycho T so special is just that: He is absolutely out of his mind on the basketball court in the best way possible.

Tyler Hansbrough plays hard.  Really hard.  Super-duper hard.  "Terrorize opponents" hard.

He goes hard on the glass, where he slams the ball with authority into the giant paws he calls hands.  He goes hard in battling his way into position in the post.  He goes hard as he takes the ball up as strong as he possibly can without any regard to who or what might be in his way.  He goes hard when he lets loose and screams after big plays.

Growing up, my father (best known in some circles as The Guru) made a point of instilling in me the understanding of the difference between wishing and wanting.  Wishing is hoping for something without taking any initiative to make it happen.  Wanting is doing everything in one's power to go out and get it.

In his playing days at Duke, respected television analyst Jay Bilas ran against the bastion of competitiveness, Michael Jordan himself.  Last Saturday night, with the nation watching and listening, Bilas went so far as to say that even the spirit of His Airness might not be able to match up with the competitive fire of Hansbrough.  Not that Hansbrough was the better player, but that he was even more competitive than Michael.

I'm not sure how comfortable I am with anybody being assessed as more competitive than the man who is the emblem of the last generation -- and perhaps of all time -- for 'wanting it,' although Bilas certainly has a far more first-hand and informed perspective on it than yours truly does.

Regardless of where Hansbrough ranks against the most competitive of all time, one point is clear: There is no question about wishing and wanting with Psycho T.  Tyler Hansbrough wants it.

Maybe Tyler Hansbrough will pack up shop and head for the Association after his team's 2008 NCAA Tournament run is over.  Maybe he will wait a year.  Maybe Hansbrough will be successful once he reaches the NBA.  Maybe he won't.

But no matter what happens in the days and months to come, the weekend ahead will offer at least one and possibly two more chances to watch the man who may will be the hardest working basketball player in this country -- and one of the best, too.

It will be more than worth enjoying for what it is: beautiful.

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