Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dishonor Roll: Hansbrough Haters

Admittedly, when it comes to NCAA basketball, I bleed Tar Heel blue, which means people are sure to call "homer" on this post.

Let them boo and hiss; Tyler Hansbrough is going to be a pretty damn good NBA player and all the doubters need to look beyond the color of his skin and see that.

What? Did I say something wrong? That is why so many people are down on him heading into tonight's NBA Draft right? Because he's white...

No one will come right out and say it; they'll use phrases like "limited upside" and "grittiness," talk about his "determination" and how "hardworking" he is as a player. Players who are far less accomplished in the collegiate ranks will earn praises for what they might develop into and the athleticism they bring to the table, despite having done nothing remotely close to what Hansbrough has done over his four years at North Carolina.

Leadership, integrity and an easily identified passion for the game seemingly don't translate to being highly-regarded the same way that being the second or third best player on your team does, like Arizona's Jordan Hill or Wake Forest's James Johnson.

Experts will point to the difficult transition to the NBA game for fellow "Great White Hopes" Adam Morrisson and JJ Redick, two NCAA poster boys who have fallen on hard-ish times as members of The Association. The problem, of course, is that the comparision is far from apt. Just because all three are white doesn't mean the other two are the best measures of Tyler Hansbrough's ability going forward.

Why not line Hansbrough up next to fellow Tar Heel alum Antawn Jamison? Both are 6'9" and both dominated in the paint and on the glass while extending their game beyond the key each year they put on the UNC uniform. Wouldn't that be a more viable comparison?

After all, both won Naismith and Wooden Awards, and had outstanding career averages, Jamison going for 19 and 10 to Hansbrough's 20 and 9. Much like Jamison, Hansbrough's jersey will soon swing from the rafters at The Dean Dome, right next to the National Championship banner he helped win this past season.

Or what about another fellow Tar Heel, Sean May? Like Hansbrough, May helped hang a National Championship banner in the rafters leading into his draft year. Unlike Hansbrough, May couldn't operate a lick outside of the key and played on a pair of balky knees. The result? 13th overall and the bulk of his career riding the pine in Charlotte, injured or out of shape.

But wait - Hansbrough's white, so we have to compare him to white players only, right?

Ike Diogu was a Top 10 pick. Sheldon Williams went Top 5, though admittedly it was the Atlanta Hawks who took him, so we all know it was a little crazy, but still. Dammit, Drew Gooden went 3rd overall. Drew Gooden!

The difference? Skin color. That's all it really is. Guys like Hansbrough get labeled as hard-working and playing above their true potential because he's white and can't jump out of the gym, while far less accomplished and decorated players who didn't perform nearly as well in college are viewed as projects and seen for what they might be able to do in the future.

Experts project Hansbrough as an "energy guy off the bench" and someone who will give a team "good minutes in reserve." I project him to make a lot of teams wish they had reconsidered their "projects" and guys with "outstanding upside" when they could have taken the kid who won everything in college.

But what can you do? JJ Redick was considered too small and a defensive liability coming out of college, despite an ultra-fast release and storied career at Duke. Stephen Curry? He's going to be a star, even though he's an inch shorter and played against far lesser competition...


newt said...

I have not been following the draft at all but I am shocked that a player who did so well in college is garnering so little attention in NBA circles. Glad you blew the whistle on this one Spencer.

E. Spencer Kyte said...

It's not so much blowing the whistle as admitting the truth...

We hear all the time about racism in sports and the world in general, but when it happens against the white kid, no one seems to have a problem with it.

Dude was awesome in college and shows the same career arc at UNC as Antawn Jamison, but very few think he'll be more than a 7th or 8th man and the only reason is because he's white.

They'll say it's something else, but it's his skin color and that ain't right to me.

Anonymous said...

Certainly. All above told the truth. Let's discuss this question.