THE MADNESS ofMarch began early for North Carolina—and for its Player of the Year candidateTyler Hansbrough. Before the Tar Heels (28--6) rolled through the ACCtournament to lock up the top seed in the NCAA's East region, they completed aseason's sweep of archrival Duke. The Blue Devils did not go gently in thatMarch 4 game: Hansbrough, a 6'9", 245-pound sophomore center averaging 18.1points and 7.9 rebounds, absorbed a hard elbow foul by Gerald Henderson thatleft his nose bloodied and broken. Hansbrough—who plans to stay in schoolrather than test the NBA draft—wore a protective mask in the ACC tournament,but his focus has not blurred. He's eyeing a trip to Atlanta for the FinalFour.
On his battlescars
Aside from thenose, one of my upper front teeth was knocked loose on a separate play againstDuke—I may have to get a root canal after the season because of it. I didn'tthink my nose was broken or that serious at first. It didn't hurt that bad.I've been hit a lot this season, a lot of bumps and bruises. But battle scarsare nothing new: In high school [at Poplar Bluff (Mo.) High] my freshman year Ibroke my leg when I landed awkwardly after going for a layup.
On life in PoplarBluff
It's a close-knit town [pop. 16,921]; everybody knows what's going on witheverybody else. Everybody's real supportive, even with me being a Tar Heel.Most people at home wanted me to go to Missouri, but when we played in St.Louis in December, a couple of thousand fans from Poplar Bluff came dressed inCarolina Blue. That was special.
On wearing jerseynumber 50 for his brother Greg, 23
I'm proud of my brother [who wore the number in high school]. He was diagnosedwith a brain tumor when he was seven years old and after it was removed, he wasleft partially paralyzed on his left side. But he's very determined and veryathletic. He's even run marathons.
On learning Swahiliat UNC
I took a class last year [he has not declared a major], and I am taking anotherthis year. Maybe I'll use the language on a trip to Africa someday. There's noreason I chose Swahili other than that I thought it would be cool. I enjoyit.
On otherinteresting classes
I'm taking Naval Weapons Systems. You learn about the engineering and operatingsystems that the Navy has on ships for weapons. I wanted classes about things Iwouldn't necessarily be exposed to on my own.
If you have bad-looking feet, like I do because of basketball, it's nice tohave them taken care of. You get blisters and callouses; a pedicure removesdead skin and makes your feet look better. It also kind of feels good—you haveyour feet soaked and massaged and buffed up. Other guys on the team getpedicures too.
On former UNC coachDean Smith
He's always around. I was shy to meet him at first, but he's extremely nice andhe's interested in how we do, and he offers advice. It's always useful—it makesyou want to take [his words] onto the court and execute.
On the toughestteams in the tournament
It's unpredictable. You have to see who's peaking. But I'm not scared to matchup with anybody. I'll be ready.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY
JIM BOUNDS/US PRESSWIRE (HANSBROUGH ON COURT)