DETROIT — Can't get enough of UNC forward Tyler Hansbrough? In today's Daily American Republic — the paper in Hansbrough's homedown of Poplar Bluff, Missouri — reporters Alex Abate and Brian Rosener write about how CBS arrived to
tour the town earlier this week to tape a segment.
They also look in on Hansbrough's family, and look back on Hansbrough's postseason championship career in high school.
Here's the story:
By ALEX ABATE and BRIAN ROSENER
Daily American Republic
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — They came to Poplar Bluff to see where the legend began. Where a life-sized mural hangs on a downtown business and where locals wear Tar Heel blue as if they lived in Chapel Hill, not the foothills of the Ozarks, because of Tyler Hansbrough.
A television crew from CBS was in town Wednesday — no April’s Fool — looking for the court where Hansbrough practiced all those jump shots, the weight room where Psycho T was first born and the town that follows every move of the North Carolina senior.
Many of Hansbrough’s family members, friends and fans will be in Detroit for the Final Four on Saturday when the Tar Heels play Villanova in the national semifinal.
“I am really excited for him and for the team and for what they have been through,” Tyler’s father, Dr. Gene Hansbrough, said. “To watch them start as freshman and have a chance to win a national title, that would be a storybook ending.”
Tami Hansbrough, Tyler’s mom, who will also be attending the game, remembers the semifinal loss last season to Kansas.
“They have worked so hard, this team deserves to win it,” Tami said. “It is not a fluke or luck, they have worked so hard to get where they are.”
Tyler was a star at Poplar Bluff High School leading the Mules to consecutive state titles in 2005 and ’06 while posting a 99-15 record in games he played. He finished with school records of 2,464 points and 1,175 rebounds, as well as state records in free throws made (741), free throws attempted (958) and field goal percentage (73.1).
The legend started well before he ever wore Mules Maroon, however, playing in the basketball camps of Three Rivers Community College coach Gene Bess.
Bess, who has won two national titles and 1,084 career wins, appreciates the fact that Hansbrough has brought a town of approximately 17,000 people to the national spotlight.
“I think it is the most positive thing that has happened to this town since I have been here,” Bess said. “The (public relations) has been astronomical. I am just thankful that I know him and his family.”
The Final Four is a moment that Tyler will be able to remember for a long time, said John David Pattillo, Hansbrough’s high school coach.
“It is one of those times in life that will live with you forever,” said Pattillo, who retired from coaching after winning two state titles for his hometown. “Sometimes it is hard to enjoy those moments because they come and go so quickly.
“I hope they get a chance to win and I hope he gets a chance to enjoy it.”
Tyler’s brother Ben, who transferred to Notre Dame and will play for the Irish next season, will be equally as proud of his brother in Detroit this weekend.
“Absolutely, seeing him every day working on his game,” Ben said. “Playing with him, knowing how hard he plays and how hard he wants to win, you can’t help but be proud of him.”
So is this town, located 154 miles south of St. Louis, which is what brought CBS here.
The television crew was impressed with the buzz around town for Hansbrough and the Tar Heels, said Poplar Bluff Athletic Director Jim Brown, who was their tour guide.
“They were impressed with the mural on the wall,” Brown said. “They saw the enthusiasm at the school with the kids wearing Carolina blue.”
The good times will also be at local bars around Poplar Bluff including Buffalo Wild Wings. The atmosphere for games throughout the tournament has been exciting, manager Becky Johnson said.
“This Saturday, we are bringing people in early and having more cooks, just more people to make it go more smoothly,” Johnson said. “We will definitely have a full house on Saturday.”
Despite having gone to many games throughout Tyler’s career, Gene will still be nervous this weekend in the Motor City.
“I’ll celebrate the fact they are here,” Gene said. “But once the game starts, I’ll be nervous. It is lose or go home.”
The run through the tournament has not only been fun for the town but for the family as well. Many local fans were able to see North Carolina’s Sweet 16 and Elite Eight wins in Memphis, located 157 miles to the southeast.
Tyler’s uncle, Sean Fister, took his family to Memphis but the two-time World Long Drive champion won’t be able to make it to Detroit for Saturday. He’ll be playing in a charity golf event for John Daily but will be able to watch since North Carolina plays in the second semifinal of the night. He hopes to be there Monday night for the championship game.
“I went to Memphis last week, it was a blast,” Ben Hansbrough said. “We had a whole bunch of people from my mom’s side and a whole bunch from my dad’s side, it was a good time.”
Ben was a sophomore when Poplar Bluff won its first state title, setting up Tyler’s two-handed reverse slam dunk at the end of the game. The two brothers finished first and second in career scoring at Poplar Bluff, winning their final game together by beating Vashon, which came into the state championship as the top-ranked high school team in the nation with a 60-game winning streak.
Like the Tar Heels end to last season, the Mules lost their first state semifinal game to the eventual state champion in Tyler’s sophomore year while as a freshman, his first playoff game ended with a trip to the hospital.
Tyler’s high school career started with a 13-point night off the bench in the season opener wearing No. 10. By the end of his freshman year he was a starter, helping Poplar Bluff reach the state playoffs for the first time in nine years. He broke his leg in the state playoff against DeSmet, which later lost in the championship game, after a steal and dunk attempt in the closing minute of the first half. Poplar Bluff lost 58-55.
As a sophomore, Tyler scored 33 points in his first game wearing No. 50, which he inherited from his older brother Greg. By his junior year, college coaches from around the nation descended on Poplar Bluff, which had to turn fans away from its 3,000-seat gym.
One night at a tournament in Springfield, Mo., Tyler hit all 12 shots from the field and all nine of his free throws, finishing with 35 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Roy Williams was there and seven months later, Tyler announced he wanted to be a Tar Heel.
As a senior, he scored 40 points and had 20 rebounds in the home opener, forcing overtime by overcoming a nine-point deficit in the final 82 seconds. He later scored 44 points in a game to set a school record, hit 29 free throws in a row at one point of the season and helped the Mules back to the state championship.
In the McDonald’s All-American Game, Tyler scored 15 points and had eight rebounds. He later earned MVP honors playing for Team USA in an exhibition game and a week later, scored 24 points and shared MVP honors at Madison Square Garden in the Jordan Classic.
Sam Giambelluca, president of the Poplar Bluff Sports Hall of Fame, said he has watched Tyler throughout his career both in person and on television.
“It is just great,” Giambelluca said of Hansbrough’s success. “Probably of all the athletes that I have been around, I don’t know anyone that has worked harder at their sport than Tyler has at basketball.”