Feb. 16, 2006
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Tyler Hansbrough was giving hope to North Carolina fans before he even stepped on campus.
By the time he played his first game, the prize of the Tar Heels' heralded recruiting class had become the face of the future for a program that lost its top seven scorers after winning a fourth NCAA championship last spring.
He's done nothing to disappoint.
The 6-foot-9 forward leads all Atlantic Coast Conference rookies in scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage, and he's on pace to become the first Tar Heel freshman to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding. And after his record-setting 40-point performance to help the Carolina rally from 20 down to beat Georgia Tech, the unassuming yet relentless big man nicknamed "Psycho T" can probably start etching his name on the trophy for the league's rookie of the year.
"He works as hard as any youngster I've ever coached," coach Roy Williams said. "He comes every day trying to do the best he can do. I've said that since Day One."
Hansbrough is averaging 19 points and 7.7 rebounds while starting every game for the No. 23 Tar Heels (16-6, 7-4 ACC), who have bounced back despite losing underclassmen Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants to the NBA draft.
Hansbrough has been named the ACC's rookie of the week a league-high seven times this season, scoring at least 14 points in 21 of 22 games. His career day against the Yellow Jackets increased his scoring average by a full point, tying him with Wake Forest's Justin Gray for second in the league behind Duke's J.J. Redick, who leads the nation at 28.9.
He's also shooting 61 percent on the season and 75 percent at the line, where he leads the league with 8.4 attempts per game.
His skills were on full display against Georgia Tech.
He set the Smith Center scoring record, surpassing Joseph Forte's mark of 38 points set against Tulsa in 2000-01. That put his name above an impressive list that includes Tim Duncan, Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner and Grant Hill.
He also set the ACC's freshman scoring record, breaking the mark of 38 set by Clemson's Skip Wise against Penn in November 1974. And he became just the eighth Tar Heel to score at least 40 in a game, the first since Shammond Williams scored 42 in a double-overtime win at Georgia Tech in 1998.
Hansbrough went 13-for-17 from the field and 14-for-19 from the line to go with 10 rebounds, surpassing his previous best of 26 points against Boston College.
But Hansbrough talked as much about his team's comeback from a 50-30 first-half deficit as he did about his career day, an example of his maturity.
"My game was just in a flow," he said. "Definitely it was fun in the second half when we started coming back and making a run and started stopping them defensively."
He certainly earned his free throws in a physical game that left him with a red welt in the shape of a handprint on his right arm. He scored on everything: drives to the basket, shots off offensive rebounds, even a dunk in transition that he powered into the rim despite getting knocked to the floor by Mario West in the second half.
"I can't remember the last time I saw a freshman run the floor that hard," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said.
Williams called it an "unbelievable" and "sensational" performance, while fellow freshman Bobby Frasor acknowledged it was special just to watch Hansbrough on this night.
And from listening to junior Wes Miller, it sounds like the team is ready to see what else its star freshman can do.
"We feed off the fact that we know when we get the ball to him, he's going to score," Miller said. "And in the second half, that's what we did. We said, 'We're coming to you, big fella.' ... It seemed like every time we got it into him, he scored."