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Pivot Points: Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough Is Quietly Defying His Critics

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IDecember 29, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 25:   Thirteenth overall draft pick by the Indiana Pacers,  Tyler Hansbrough makes his way to the stage during the 2009 NBA Draft at the Wamu Theatre at Madison Square Garden June 25, 2009 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Questions, always questions. Ever since Tyler Hansbrough exhibited an aptitude for the game of basketball, he has been dogged by constant criticism and a steady stream of endless, probing questions.

Is he athletic enough?

Does he have any type of perimeter game?

Are his skills suited to the NBA?

Will his physical nature translate to professional basketball?

The list goes on and on.

A new one was added after Hansbrough missed the start of his NBA rookie season due to a stress reaction in his shin, an injury he first suffered as a senior at the University of North Carolina.

That injury started speculation on whether or not his career would be defined by an injury that has the potential to be problematic and recurring, something that could derail his time in the NBA.

Well, if his recent performances are any indication, Hansbrough may not have as hard a time adjusting to NBA life as was once thought.

In all reality, he may even be ahead of the curve.

For a player that was able to accomplish so much in his amateur career, none of those accolades have affected the way his game is perceived.

He ended his career at UNC as the top scorer in the history of the school. He was a consistent member of the All-American team, named National Player of the Year, and led his team to an NCAA championship.

After all this, the popular sentiment was the Indiana Pacers still made a risky move in making Hansbrough a first round choice, and a lottery pick at that.

Maybe the Pacers noticed the manner in which Hansbrough has made a habit of answering his critics through hard, if unspectacular play, and a desire that may have no equal in the NBA.

What Hansbrough lacks in talent, he more than makes up in heart. The fact that he was able to accomplish so much with so little at a school like UNC has to account for something.

UNC is known for excellence in the college arena and for turning out players who excel once they enter the NBA. Some of the best players in the league, past and present, have spent time in Chapel Hill.

Hansbrough was able to etch his name alongside such UNC greats as Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Phil Ford, Kenny Smith, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, and a host of other players.

In his newest NBA venture, Hansbrough has had to completely start over since all of the glory he achieved in college hardly resonates among the ranks of the grizzled professionals in the NBA.

Due to an injury to Pacers' star Danny Granger, Hansbrough has been afforded increased playing time in the Indiana lineup and has taken full advantage of the opportunity.

In his past two games he has recorded double-doubles of 10 points-10 rebounds, and 19 points-10 rebounds, respectively. He has demonstrated the same intense will to compete as he did at UNC.

His game still has much room for improvement, as his 36 percent shooting average from the field will attest, but Hansbrough is making strides at becoming the player that he feels he is capable of being.

He will never have the athleticism of some of his compatriots in the NBA, nor will he possess the natural talent that so many others have been gifted with, but he does have some attributes to rest his laurels on.

For one, Hansbrough may be one of the toughest and strongest players to enter the league in quite some time. The fear component just doesn't seem to exist with him.

His numerous games of Texas style ping-pong has become legendary among UNC faithful. The game is played like traditional ping-pong except when a point is awarded, the loser has to lift his shirt and allow a direct shot to the torso area.

A painful experience no doubt, but one in which Hansbrough relishes. That same tolerance for pain translates to his game on the court as he is known to never shirk from a challenge and to provide maximum effort at all times.

His UNC pedigree is another gift because he learned to play the game the right way. Besides being a great basketball school, UNC is famous for instilling the importance of fundamental basketball to its players to prepare then for the next level.

If a player has spent time at UNC, you can rest assured you don't have to spend time teaching them the quirks of the game, or even teaching them the correct way to play, a problem that is prevalent in the NBA today.

All of that may not make Hansbrough an annual All-Star. But it will give him something to lean on when he is at a decided physical disadvantage against opponents.

It also has helped provide him with a weapon to counter the naysayers that question his ability to compete in the NBA.

Once again Hansbrough is beginning to answer the questions that have followed him throughout his career.

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