Born: November 3, 1985
The North Carolina Tar Heels are considered by many to be one of the top two or three programs in the history of college basketball. Of that, there is no doubt.
Also leaving no doubt is Poplar Bluff’s Tyler Hansbrough, perhaps the most accomplished collegiate player in the long history of one of the most accomplished programs in the sport.
Think that’s hyperbole? Hansbrough was a four-time First Team All-American at North Carolina (three times a consensus pick) and a four-time, First Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection. He is the only player in either North Carolina or ACC history to accomplish those feats.
Add in his ACC-record 2,872 career points, his consensus selection as National Player of the Year in 2008, and a 2009 NCAA National Championship and it’s easy to understand why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Hansbrough as part of its Class of 2023.
His high school career wasn’t too shabby, either. Hansbrough led Poplar Bluff High School to consecutive state championships in 2004 and 2005, earning McDonald’s and Parade Magazine All-America honors along the way.
For Hansbrough, he gives all the credit to his hometown.
“I’m extremely proud to be from Poplar Bluff,” he said. “It’s a great community that is hard working and very tight. I grew up with a lot of my best friends and that’s a big reason why we had so much success with our high school basketball team.”
As a youngster, Hansbrough participated in basketball, soccer and track. But by junior high, his love for basketball grew to the point he stopped participating in other sports. The local college basketball team – Three Rivers Community College – and their hall of fame coach Gene Bess (MSHOF, 2006) had a major impact on his decision.
“I always loved the game but, at a young age, I went to a lot of Three Rivers basketball games with my dad and grandpa,” Hansbrough said. “I really enjoyed watching Coach Bess and his teams compete and I learned a ton from those games.”
Following one of the most successful careers in college basketball history, Hansbrough was a first-round pick of NBA’s Indiana Pacers. Overall, he spent seven seasons in the league, playing for the Pacers (2009-13), Toronto Raptors (2013-15) and Charlotte Bobcats (2016). Hansbrough also played three years in China.
During the 2012-13 season, Hansbrough had the unique opportunity to spend part of the NBA season with his younger brother, Ben, on the roster of the Pacers. Tyler and Ben are one of just 61 sets of brothers to have played in the NBA in the league’s 76-year history.
“Playing with my brother on the Pacers was a dream come true,” Hansbrough said. “Ben worked as hard as I’ve ever seen and really made a commitment to be in the best shape of his life when he was trying out for the Pacers. To play on the biggest stage in basketball with my brother and represent Poplar Bluff, Mo., will be one of my favorite memories and basketball experiences.”
But Tyler and Ben weren’t just partners on the court. They were rivals, too.
“There is no one that can get me fired up more than my younger brother Ben,” Tyler Hansbrough said. “He currently gets me going on the pickleball court but, when we were playing together for the Pacers or Poplar Bluff, Ben always knew how to fire me up.”
With a career as varied and successful as Hansbrough’s it’s not surprising to find out he has a tough time pointing to just one or two top moments. In fact, his best basketball memories aren’t from Chapel Hill or the NBA. They revolve around his hometown.
“All the memories I have from playing they all start in Poplar Bluff,” he said. “First memories that come to mind aren’t the achievements, it’s working on my game. Whether that’s at Three Rivers Community College, my backyard, the junior high or Poplar Bluff Senior High. I loved the open gyms in high school in the middle of summer with no air conditioning, and when I walk into a hot gym to this day, I always think about my high school gym. All the practices and open gyms in high school made our team that much closer and helped us build relationships that will last a lifetime.”
Those lessons learned on the sweaty courts of Poplar Bluff have helped shape Hansbrough into the man he is today.
“Basketball has taught me a lot about life,” he said. “It’s taught me a lot about failures and how to handle failure, so I can learn from my mistakes and get better results. I’ve learned how to have a great work ethic, by working at my game every single day for years.”