The Toronto Raptors Tyler Hansbrough accomplished just about everything possible basketball-wise during his four seasons with the North Carolina Tar Heels. A four-time Consensus All-America selection, the ACC career leader in points scored, free throws made and attempted and second in total rebounds and an NCAA Championship in his final year with the Tar Heels. Hansbrough loved his time in college and it wasn’t just for the basketball.
“I stayed at UNC year round and I loved it,” Hansbrough said. “Obviously it’s college life. I am not in a room thinking basketball 24/7, I lived the college dream. I did everything. I went to parties. I hung out. I took full advantage of everything. That’s what I did, that’s what I like to do. I like to go out and have fun. I had a big core group of friends. We liked to do a lot of things off the court. We were in there doing what every college student does.”
Once a player arrives in the NBA, everything changes. It becomes a job, a career and just like every other person leaving college, life comes with new responsibilities, relationships and challenges.
“You are going to have teammates and you are going to develop friendships in the NBA, but you are not going to have that like you did in college,” Hansbrough said. “It’s more business here. College is definitely a fun experience. In the NBA you have teammates that have families and they go home to their families. In college, you go home to a dorm room or whatever living situation you are in with your friends.”
As many college graduates do long after they have moved on, Hansbrough remembers his time at North Carolina as some of the best years of his life. However, he also credits his time spent there as helping him to prepare for his NBA career.
“College is kind of being the first time on your own and you kind of learn to take care of yourself,” Hansbrough said. “On the court is one thing, but off the court is another thing once you hit the NBA life. All the money and really it is the first time being on your own, so these guys coming out in their first year, it’s tough to live on your own at such a young age and when you get a lot of money it’s tough. College builds discipline and you get off the court experience and learn how to take care of yourself.”
However, after four seasons of college ball, Hansbrough knew it was time to move on.
“From a confidence level I knew what I could do,” Hansbrough said. “I accomplished a lot at the college level. I was ready to go to the NBA and test the waters there and see what I could do.”
The allure of big money in the NBA is always going to tempt players to leave college early, but if a player’s individual situation permits, there are benefits of staying longer and a price to be paid for leaving early. College life is fun and unlike anything a young person is going to experience after they start their career and it is a fairly safe environment to do some often-needed growing up. You could see it in his eyes as Hansbrough talked about his time at UNC. Those were some of the best years of his life.