THE MADNESS of
March began early for North Carolina—and for its Player of the Year candidate
Tyler Hansbrough. Before the Tar Heels (28--6) rolled through the ACC
tournament to lock up the top seed in the NCAA's East region, they completed a
season's sweep of archrival Duke. The Blue Devils did not go gently in that
March 4 game: Hansbrough, a 6'9", 245-pound sophomore center averaging 18.1
points and 7.9 rebounds, absorbed a hard elbow foul by Gerald Henderson that
left his nose bloodied and broken. Hansbrough—who plans to stay in school
rather than test the NBA draft—wore a protective mask in the ACC tournament,
but his focus has not blurred. He's eyeing a trip to Atlanta for the Final
On his battle
Aside from the
nose, one of my upper front teeth was knocked loose on a separate play against
Duke—I may have to get a root canal after the season because of it. I didn't
think my nose was broken or that serious at first. It didn't hurt that bad.
I've been hit a lot this season, a lot of bumps and bruises. But battle scars
are nothing new: In high school [at Poplar Bluff (Mo.) High] my freshman year I
broke my leg when I landed awkwardly after going for a layup.
On life in Poplar
It's a close-knit town [pop. 16,921]; everybody knows what's going on with
everybody else. Everybody's real supportive, even with me being a Tar Heel.
Most people at home wanted me to go to Missouri, but when we played in St.
Louis in December, a couple of thousand fans from Poplar Bluff came dressed in
Carolina Blue. That was special.
On wearing jersey
number 50 for his brother Greg, 23
I'm proud of my brother [who wore the number in high school]. He was diagnosed
with a brain tumor when he was seven years old and after it was removed, he was
left partially paralyzed on his left side. But he's very determined and very
athletic. He's even run marathons.
On learning Swahili
I took a class last year [he has not declared a major], and I am taking another
this year. Maybe I'll use the language on a trip to Africa someday. There's no
reason I chose Swahili other than that I thought it would be cool. I enjoy
I'm taking Naval Weapons Systems. You learn about the engineering and operating
systems that the Navy has on ships for weapons. I wanted classes about things I
wouldn't necessarily be exposed to on my own.
If you have bad-looking feet, like I do because of basketball, it's nice to
have them taken care of. You get blisters and callouses; a pedicure removes
dead skin and makes your feet look better. It also kind of feels good—you have
your feet soaked and massaged and buffed up. Other guys on the team get
On former UNC coach
He's always around. I was shy to meet him at first, but he's extremely nice and
he's interested in how we do, and he offers advice. It's always useful—it makes
you want to take [his words] onto the court and execute.
On the toughest
teams in the tournament
It's unpredictable. You have to see who's peaking. But I'm not scared to match
up with anybody. I'll be ready.