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October 13, 2006
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -Tyler Hansbrough's explanation of why he returned to North Carolina for his sophomore season is profoundly simple.
"I've never really known a player to spend another year with coach (Roy Williams and get worse," Hansbrough said Thursday during media day.
As he set records and made history as a freshman, Hansbrough emerged as the latest face of North Carolina's tradition-rich program. Now he's back for more, and hopes his encore will include helping the Tar Heels contend for their second national title under Williams.
"There's a lot of things I want to accomplish as a team," Hansbrough said. "I had a good year, but I talked to coach and we both agreed there's a lot of things I could get better at individually. I'd like to go a little farther in the tournament and have a better ending."
The prize of North Carolina's freshman class a year ago wasted no time in bursting onto the college basketball scene.
The 6-foot-9 center was the Atlantic Coast Conference's rookie of the year and was the first freshman in league history unanimously picked to the all-ACC team.
Those honors came after he was the first Tar Heel to lead the team in scoring (18.9 points), rebounding (7.8 rebounds), shooting percentage (57 percent) and steals (38).
About the only thing Hansbrough couldn't do was help North Carolina dodge George Mason's upset last March. The Patriots shocked the Tar Heels in the second round of the NCAA tournament, dealing the proud Carolina program a stunning defeat that fueled Hansbrough's summerlong workout program.
"Everyone on the team pretty much still has that in the back of their minds," Hansbrough said.
He hit the weight room, adding about five pounds of muscle to increase his weight to 245 pounds. He repeated drills to improve his explosiveness and quickness.
And he developed a mid-range jump shot to complement his smooth low-post moves and even allow him to occasionally move to power forward.
Hansbrough is "as focused an individual on taking care of his body as I've ever been around (and) as driven a player to do as much as he possibly can," Williams said. "I think he's more explosive, he's stronger, he's faster, he has more stamina - all those things that I think are going to translate into being a better basketball player.
"And I think the experience that he had last year will give him confidence to be a big-time player for us this year and probably expand some of the things that he's able to do," Williams added.
The other Tar Heels players also have noticed a new, improved Hansbrough.
"When he gets between these lines right here," guard Quentin Thomas said, gesturing toward the Smith Center court, "it's time to go to work. He means business."
Away from the court, Hansbrough insists he hasn't changed - he's still the same aw-shucks 20-year-old who the locals in this hotbed of big-time hoops just happen to recognize nearly everywhere he goes.
He's getting used to his life as a celebrity who has blossomed into North Carolina's latest cover boy, but swears he won't allow the hoopla to go to his head.
"Once you start listening to things like that, you get satisfied, and that's when I think you get worse," Hansbrough said. "I'm definitely not satisfied where I'm at right now. I think that I can improve a lot."