Tyler Hansbrough: A Breath of Fresh Air In This Day and Age

Dave SerkochCorrespondent IApril 9, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 06:  Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates as he wears the net over his neck after the Tar Heels 89-72 win against the Michigan State Spartans during the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Ford Field on April 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

With Monday night's North Carolina romp over Michigan State in the NCAA Championship Game, two realizations came to my mind:

1.) Another year had passed that I'd done absolutely terrible in my bracket polls.

2.) I wish there were more Tyler Hansbrough's in the world.

Let me start by saying that I don't understand all the grief this guy gets.

Constantly, I hear people say this kid is a whiner who does nothing but complain to the refs while taking flops, and that he's soft and does not have a successful NBA career ahead of him.

What I see, is a guy who works his butt off every minute of every game, giving 110 percent each and every time I've watched him.

Sure, he might flop here and there, but that's his job, and if a referee is going to give him the call, then more power to him.

As for a big NBA career, so what?

Not everybody is cut out to be the Michael Jordan's of the world. The NBA needs small contributors too, you know. Guys who put in their minutes, get the job done, and don't have their highlights at the top of every SportsCenter.

Besides, Hansbrough has endured four years of that already. Perhaps he's ready to take a backseat for a while and just get back to enjoying the game he loves.

Which brings me to my second point.

How refreshing is it, in this day and age, to see a guy actually finish his college career, putting in four years of blood, sweat, and tears, and finally seeing it all pay off in the end?

Watching him cut down the net was one of the sweetest moments in sports in a long, long time.

I'm by no means a die-hard North Carolina fan. In fact, the only reason I root for them is because I hate Duke.

How the Blue Devils, year in and year out, get a high seeding in the tournament, I'll never understand. But that's for a different time and place.

No, I don't bleed UNC blue and white. I just appreciate an athlete who makes a commitment and then actually follows through on it.

It's a rarity now to be a fan of a college team, or an athlete, and to have the pleasure of following them for four years. Hell, three years, or sometimes even two, is a gift.

Just his past week, three of college basketball's biggest stars declared themselves eligible for the NBA draft: Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, and Pitt's DeJaun Blair.

Thabeet, the eldest of the three, was a junior who elected to bypass his senior season. Griffin and Blair were both sophomores.

It's safe to say that had either of them decided to return for another year, their team's chances of competing for a national championship would have been substantially larger.

Instead, they've chosen to leave early, guaranteeing themselves first-round status in the upcoming NBA Draft, along with the millions of dollars that come with it.

Now by no means am I bashing their decision. Any time you've got money being shoved in your face, and in their cases we're talking the kind with plenty of zero's attached, you can't possibly be faulted for turning it down.

More power to these guys. They need to get it while the gettin's good.

But for Hansbrough, money was never a factor. I can't recall if he was ever considered first round material, I've only just begun to take a keen interest in college basketball, but with his skill set and attitude, I'm sure he would have made some team very happy on draft day last year.

But instead, he elected to return for his senior season, fulfilling the promise he had made to his parents, and to himself, to see this college thing through, and to take one last run at a college basketball championship.

After all, how many can actually say they've won an NCAA tournament? Hell, I can't even win one when it's fake, either in a bracket poll or via Xbox.

But my guess is that there was more to it. Like Hansbrough, I'm a college student, and unless you have been/currently are enrolled in college, you don't realize just how special the time is.

Like they always say: you don't realize what you've got until it's gone, and I'm willing to bet that Hansbrough wanted to hang around college for one more year, have some fun, play some basketball, and most importantly, be young.

There's plenty of time to be an adult, but you're only young for so long.

So while I can fully understand why Griffin, Blair, Thabeet, and the plenty of other big name college athletes who opt for the fame and fortune rather than put up with another year of thankless athleticism, it's refreshing to me to know that there are still guys out there, like Hansbrough, who truly appreciate the uniqueness that college athletics offers, to both them and the fans.

Here's hoping for more guys like him in the future.