No, Tyler Hansbrough is not a circus-style performer. He’s not a human highlight reel. Tyler Hansbrough is a meat and potatoes erector set. Never has someone done so much for so long to so many with so little apparent athleticism. The key word being “apparent.”
Did somebody say free throws?
Yes, free throws. Hansbrough has taken more free throw attempts in his three-year career (889) than anybody else in Carolina blue history. Up until February, Lenny Rosenblum held the career record at 815. The NCAA record belongs to Demon Deacon Dickie Memric who made 905 career freebies from a whopping 1,359 attempts. That record appears to be safe.
Thus begs the question, why so many trips to the foul line?
The anti-Carolina crowd will start yowling about how the Tar Heels get all the calls ever since Dean Smith found God and civil rights and then hypnotized the majority of the refs and scared the ever lovin’ bejeezus out of what few that could still blink. (Note: Mike Krzhfbvn3ski has mastered a similar technique, but we digress.)
The actual answer is players who take control of the game, or in other words – players who take their game to their opponents – make the most trips to the charity stripe. Let’s look at who’s leading around the league.
Tyrese “I Lit Up UNC For 46” Rice has been to the free throw line 175 times, Clemson’s Marty Booker (104), Duke’s DeMarcus Nelson (168), FSU’s Uche Echefu (115), Georgia Tech’s Jeremis Smith (134), Maryland’s Bambale Osby (146), Miami’s Dwayne Collins (94), N.C. State’s J.J. Hickson (177) Virginia’s Sean Singletary (173), Virginia Tech’s Deron Washington (177) and Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague rounds out the list at 124.
Not to many stand around shooters in that crowd. Most likely to take a jump shot would be Singletary and Rice, but neither is hesitant to take the ball to the hoop and into the foul zone.
That’s the point, players who are either slashers or inside pounders typically get fouled the most. There is more contact around the basket that anywhere else for all the obvious reasons. The fact that three refs are watching the ball headed toward the hoop (whether they are supposed to be or not) is also part of the equation.
So if Tyler Hansbrough goes and does some heavy lifting in the paint, taking his game to his defender, he will get more fouls. But, why so many more than so many gifted Tar Heels before him?
It’s a function of technique. On one hand, it’s brute strength even though Psycho T doesn’t look that strong. On the other hand it’s how he shoots the ball when close to the hoop.
We’ve all seen Hansbrough take the ball in those two big mitts and head into traffic. Remarkably, he seems to get to the basket almost every time with the ball still in those hands and headed for a score regardless of how many opposing hands look to impede its path. That’s strength with a side dish of determination.
Then there’s his shot. Imagine your left elbow is tied to your waist with a bungee cord. The cord will not allow you to lift your left hand any higher than the bottom of your nose. Not your typical shot technique, now is it?
Most D1 hoopsters take most of their shots with the ball above their head at release. Hansbrough’s release is lower, and certainly more awkward looking. Yes, he’s developing a more standard looking jump shot from 10 to 15 feet, but he keeps his money shot in close.
It goes like this: “Surely, I can block that shot EVERY TIME!”
No doubt opposing coaches instruct their big men to the contrary. No doubt those very same forwards and centers pretend to listen, and head into the game thinking ESPN top play for facing Psycho T.
Then the buzzer sounds, and the game starts. Entry pass to Hansbrough. He spins and shoots. The previously humored opposing big man tries to block the shot, and the whistle blows sending Hansbrough to the free throw line 889 times.
Oh, and on a lot of those occasions he makes the shot anyway, not to mention the foul shot (last night he made 10 of 11).
Now you know.
(*"Throw the knife at the lady..." What a great line!)
(Photos by AP Photo/Gerry Broome, Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images and Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)