NBA: Hansbrough works out in familiar territory
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó If there was ever a player who could skip an audition in front of a bunch of North Carolina alums, it’s Tyler Hansbrough.
Pass a television set in these parts in the past four years and you probably saw Hansbrough ó at the foul line. Sporting that signature glare and relentless work ethic, he helped the Tar Heels reach two Final Fours and win a national title, while setting the Atlantic Coast Conference career scoring record.
But there was Hansbrough on Wednesday, being led through drills in a pre-draft workout by Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown and assistant Phil Ford, whose career scoring record Hansbrough broke last season at North Carolina.
It’s no surprise Brown, North Carolina class of 1963, wasn’t about to join the group of critics questioning how the 6-foot-8 Hansbrough will fare in the NBA.
“You know big guys in our league don’t like to block out. They don’t run on every play. They don’t rebound every ball,” Brown said. “So if you have the mentality to do those things you have a chance.
“And he’s a much better athlete than most people think.”
Hansbrough’s motor was at full speed in the portion of the workout reporters were allowed to watch. He went first in drills, sprinted up the court and showed a decent touch with his mid-range shot.
Likely no player in this draft has had his weaknesses dissected more. Perhaps that comes from playing 141 college games, the majority of them on national TV, for one of the nation’s elite programs.
There’s talk that Hansbrough, who set an NCAA career record with 982 made free throws, isn’t athletic enough to use that style of play in the NBA. There are questions about his quickness, athleticism and shooting range.
No one criticizes his effort. But to Hansbrough, projected to go somewhere in the latter half of the first round in the June 25 draft, that’s become a backhanded compliment.
“There’s a lot more to me than just someone that works hard,” Hansbrough said. “I can do a lot of different things. I think my skills get overlooked because people judge me as a hard worker. But I’ve proven myself and expanded my game a lot.”
It’s unlikely the Bobcats, who hold the 12th pick, would select Hansbrough that high. But Charlotte, managed by the most famous ex-Tar Heel, Michael Jordan, is an organization stocked with baby blue products.
“He’s going to get better. I don’t think he’s even gotten close to where he could be. And we all know he’ll work,” Brown said. “We need athleticism and we need size. I’m sure we’ll look at him very carefully.”
Brown believes too much is made of Hansbrough’s weaknesses, claiming similar shortcomings among players who didn’t stay in school four years are overlooked.
Brown compared Hansbrough to Ben Wallace, a similarly undersized forward whom Brown coached in Detroit. Wallace just finished his 13th NBA season with Cleveland.
“Everybody said Ben was undersized, he couldn’t shoot the ball, he couldn’t handle the ball,” Brown said. “He’s had a phenomenal career. There are a lot of players like that.”
Chatter around the league indicates Hansbrough’s stock has risen. He’s also worked out for Detroit (15th pick), Chicago (16th) and New Orleans (21st) and has workouts planned with Indiana (13th), Utah (20th) and Portland (24th).
So after countless games on college’s biggest stage, Hansbrough is ready to make the jump ó and prove his critics wrong.
“I’m not worried about it,” Hansbrough said, “because when people get me in the gym they’re kind of surprised.”
NOTES: Bobcats GM Rod Higgins said they’ll make a qualifying offer to G Raymond Felton, an impending restricted free agent, by the June 30 deadline. Higgins said they still haven’t decided whether to do the same for F Sean May, who has battled weight and injury issues. … Taj Gibson of Southern California, Juwann James of James Madison, Ben McCauley of North Carolina State, Ahmad Nivins of Saint Joseph’s and Shawn Taggart of Memphis also auditioned for the Bobcats. Charlotte was McCauley’s first NBA workout and Brown said he’s “a little better athlete than I thought.”
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