At first Tyler Hansbrough, treats the discussion like the typical interview he faces throughout the season. When the conversation turns to Chapel Hill and his Carolina days, he seems like a different person. He eases back a bit further in his locker room seat, and before long, a broad smile appears.
What were some of the reasons you decided to go to Carolina?
“I chose Carolina because of Roy Williams, to be honest with you. I felt like he was the best coach that was recruiting me. I developed a relationship with him and his staff, and felt like those were the people I wanted to play for.”
What do you remember of Roy’s unsuccessful trip to come see you play as described in his book?
“I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember Coach Williams told me, I think, the night before that he was going to try and come out and watch me play. And we had horrible weather. I kept looking for him in the stands, and was like, “I don’t think he showed up.” But he took a plane flight, and had to land in Arkansas, two and a half hours away, and him and his wife went to Sonic and got a burger, and a slushie and then they had to fly back.”
When did you first feel comfortable in Chapel Hill?
“You can always tell the freshman. You get lost on campus. It’s a much bigger campus than I was used to back in Poplar Bluff [Missouri.] I used to get lost. Midway through my freshman year was when things really started clicking, I was getting comfortable and wasn’t homesick anymore.
“After the games, we’d all go hang out, and laugh and have fun, like teammates. It wasn’t like we went to the gym and just left , and that was it. We were boys, we were tight, we’re best friends. That’s when I realized how much I like Carolina. I grew to love Carolina. That’s like my family. Everywhere - around the campus.”
What did you think when you saw Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller announce they were coming back to UNC for another year?
“I’m happy for them. It’s your decision. I made my decision. Do what’s best for you. Obviously they wanted to come back and do some big things at Carolina, or just have fun and go to school, which is cool with me. If they would’ve left, I would have still liked them. I wouldn’t have held anything against them.”
How did the extra years help you?
“I always liked Carolina. I liked hanging out with my teammates. I liked going to class, hanging around the campus. I liked seeing everybody and going out, having fun, and just being a college student. Basketball wise, I had a few more years under Coach Williams, which helped me develop my game. It helped me build some toughness, which I carry with me now.”
How do you stay in touch with the guys you played with who are now in the NBA?
I see them when they come into town. I try to take them out to dinner if they come to Indy. Or I’ll see them when I go to their place, and catch up with them, see how they’re doing. In the offseason, we’ll run into each other in Chapel Hill.”
What’s your relationship with Bobby Frasor?
“He’s like my best friend. He came into Indy to watch the games. He was at all the games in Chicago. We’re real close. He’s doing well.”
The rivalry with Duke. Does it extend into the NBA?
“No, we pretty much ended it. They give me a tough time when they beat us or when we beat them. It goes back and forth, but I don’t hold anything against them.”
How has your relationship with Coach Williams changed since you’ve moved on to the pros?
“[Laughs] I don’t know. I’m a little more laid back when I go see Coach. It’s good. I always check up on Coach and see how he’s doing. I really keep in contact with coach [Joe] Holladay, though. He called recently, to check up on me, and things like that.”
Check back tomorrow for Part III…