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Hansbrough one HEEL of a hoops player
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My co-workers have a twisted sense of humor sometimes.

Despite being fully aware of April Fools' Day earlier this week, I still fell for perhaps the dirtiest trick one could play on me.

You see, not only am I an avid North Carolina basketball fan, but Tyler Hansbrough has become somewhat of a god in my household - and in the office, for that matter. Littered atop my desk is Tar Heels memorabilia, from a personalized letter and signed book by former coach Dean Smith to framed posters showcasing this year's squad, who just so happen to be playing Kansas in the Final Four tomorrow night in San Antonio.

So, buried in between stories with deadline looming, I was handed a story off ESPN's Web site Tuesday titled "Hansbrough injured in wreck; questionable for remainder of Final Four."

The opening paragraph of the report, which appeared completely legit, began with "North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough was involved in a two-car accident this afternoon..." There was even a link located along the side of the page to click on for a more in-depth story.

Unbeknownst to me, it wasn't true; however, my lovely colleagues enjoyed a brief laugh, particularly while watching the color drain from my face, if only momentarily, as I read the story.

Did I nearly throw up in my mouth? Absolutely. After all, Hansbrough is the face of college basketball this season, just like Kevin Durant was last year and J.J. Redick before that.

In fact, Hansbrough, a junior, is everywhere on the sporting networks, not to mention plastered on the cover of a recent Sports Illustrated edition, which yes, I purchased five copies of.

Being on a top-ranked North Carolina squad certainly helps get the word out. Despite the amazing season that Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley had - even more incredible than Durant did last year - nobody has meant more to his team than Hansbrough, who should be National Player of the Year.

This season he averaged a team-high 22.8 points per game, 10.3 rebounds and 19 double-doubles. As a result, he has been a part of North Carolina's winningest season in the program's history, helping the Tar Heels to an overall 36-2 record. In addition, he will be the eighth Tar Heel to have his jersey retired.

Relentless. Motivated. Self-driven. Choosing just one to describe Hansbrough proves far too difficult, as all of them apply, earning him the nickname "Psycho-T."

Who could disregard his 15-foot last-second jump shot to beat Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals last month? Or those deep 18-foot jumpers over Louisville center David Padgett late in the game to catapult the Tar Heels to the Final Four on Saturday? Or his dunk over UNC Asheville's 7-foot-7 (7-9 with shoes) center Kenny George earlier this season? Or his broken nose and bloody jersey last year in a matchup against arch-rival Duke?

Certainly the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Hansbrough is not the best college basketball player. Yet some claim that even without Hansbrough the Tar Heels would still be ranked number one.

Hmmm...really? Well, if that were the case then North Carolina wouldn't even be playing Kansas, seeing that Hansbrough single-handedly topped Louisville with a 28-point, 13-rebound performance on 12-of-17 shooting. In that game he scored 20 of North Carolina's 39 points during the second half, including seven straight when the game was tied.

Talk about a man on a mission, and that's exactly what Hansbrough has been on after bowing out early to Georgetown last season.

Still, the haters continue to scrutinize him, particularly his questionable future in the NBA. But as many of you already know, college basketball and the NBA are worlds apart.

In one hand, you have all heart, pure dedication and the desire to win for that team printed on the front of your jersey. On the other hand, you have quite possibly the world's greatest athletes who are sadly driven by money, egos and a lack of desire, especially on the defensive end.

Players such as Hansbrough are what make college basketball so special, so don't pollute it with the nuances of what the NBA entails.

Granted, he doesn't have the luxury of relying on his athletic abilities by taking a day off unlike others. But that's exactly what makes No. 50 so rare - he works his tail off, whether during a game or practice, and he gives it his all day in and day out.

His efforts prove that hard work certainly pays off. Earlier this week, Hansbrough was a unanimous First-Team All-America choice by The Associated Press, his third selection in as many years. He was also the unanimous choice for ACC Player of the Year. Should he return for his senior season, he will have the opportunity to do something no other player has done before, which is earn four consecutive All-America nods.

If he does indeed return, barring injury Hansbrough will set the school's career scoring record, as he is currently second with 2,151 points behind Phil Ford (2,290).

Stay or leave, the bottom line is college basketball needs players like Hansbrough. Already he has provided us with a handful of highlights, and should he bolt for the NBA next year someone else will emerge as the next face of college hoops.

Then again, if Hansbrough comes back my co-workers will have plenty of time to conjure up yet another scare.