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Player Analysis: Tyler Hansbrough

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 8, 2012

There may be no bigger mystery man on the roster than Tyler Hansbrough.

One of the most decorated players in the history of college basketball, Hansbrough remains an iconic figure in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he not only earned national player of the year honors with the Tar Heels but was named the college basketball athlete of the decade by The Sporting News in 2009.

A lottery pick of the Pacers that year, Hansbrough's rookie season was basically a wash. He reported to the team with a stress reaction in his shin, an injury carried over from his senior season at UNC, and wound up playing just 29 games as he was severely affected by vertigo after an inner ear infection.

His second season was much more like it. He averaged 11.0 points and 5.2 rebounds and finished the season as the starting power forward, buoyed by a 22-point outing against Chicago in his first playoff game.

That progress was sidetracked this season.

First came the lockout, which kept Hansbrough from working with the team's coaches and trainers in the summer, costing him valuable developmental time. Shortly after the lockout was lifted, the Pacers signed veteran David West to take over at power forward, relegating Hansbrough to the second unit.

A player whose first priority is winning, Hansbrough voiced no complaint about the role change but it was clear his confidence and comfort level suffered with the new assignment.

He wound up averaging 9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds, shooting 40.5 percent from the field, significant drop-offs considering his minutes were virtually unchanged from the previous year -- to 21.8 from 21.9 in 2010-11.

Throughout the year, Hansbrough seemed hesitant and unsure offensively. Time and again, rather than instinctively taking open shots, Hansbrough showed uncertainty, a deadly trait for scorers. His rebounding productivity also slipped. He had at least 10 rebounds twice in the first three games but no double-digit games thereafter.

He did succeed in using his physical style to mix it up inside and attract whistles. He had career highs in free throws attempted (278) and made (226) despite playing fewer games than the previous season. His 9.1 attempts per 48 minutes were the highest on the team and he made 81.3 percent, also a career best. Only Danny Granger (254 of 291) had more attempts and makes from the line.

The playoffs were a major struggle as Hansbrough, along with most of the rest of the second unit, struggled to have an impact. He averaged 14.9 minutes, 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds, shooting 34 percent in 11 playoff games.

"Tyler needs an offseason," Coach Frank Vogel said. "He's a guy I'd like to work with more than any player on our team this summer. With the motor that he has, if he ever develops the game, the skill-set, the moves and the counter-moves someone like David West has, really the sky's the limit for what he can do.

"Since he's been drafted he hasn't had an offseason to work with the coaching staff whether it's injuries or the lockout or whatever. He has a tremendous area for growth in terms of developing his skill set and his moves."

With West entrenched as the starter, Hansbrough still has the opportunity to develop as an eventual successor to the veteran. But he will need to regain the confidence, certainty and aggression that can separate him from the pack.

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