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Poplar Bluff presents Hansbrough with key to city
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Indiana Pacers rookie forward and former University of North Carolina national champion Tyler Hansbrough was honored Thursday night in his hometown as the city awarded him a key to the city and the gym floor was named in his honor at E.T. Peters Gym, where he played prep basketball at Poplar Bluff High School.
Hansbrough was a three-time all-state selection for the Mules from 2001 to 2005, winning two Class 5 state championships in his junior and senior years.
Hansbrough owns the school record for points scored in a career (2,464), career rebounds (1,175), points in a season (801) and points in a game (44).
Hansbrough, who was wearing a walking boot due to his recent shin injury, pulled the sheet off the newly enshrined Tyler Hansbrough Court.
"One thing about this court is when you see my name out on the floor when the kids are back [from summer break] working out, one thing I want them to remember is about the team that I was involved with," Hansbrough said. "It wasn't just myself."
Hansbrough thanked his teammates for helping him earn this honor.
"It was more the people that I was surrounded with that helped me out in high school and in college," he said. "I've been lucky to be around great people and a great community."
Hansbrough had family, former teachers and teammates, along with about 500 fans, in attendance.
"We've had a lot of great memories here," Tyler's mother, Tami Hansbrough, said. "It's hard to describe. It's just great to be back and having people supporting you. He's excited about [the honor], too. Basketball is just a big part of our lives."
North Carolina coach Roy Williams, former Poplar Bluff coach John David Pattillo and Pacers coach Jim O'Brien also attended the ceremony.
O'Brien said he hoped Hansbrough's winning ways at UNC and Poplar Bluff rub off on the Pacers, who haven't made the NBA playoffs since the 2005-2006 season.
Hansbrough went 99-15 at Poplar Bluff and 120-22 at North Carolina.
O'Brien, along with Pacers president Larry Bird and general manager David Morway, were shocked he still was available at their No. 13 pick in June's NBA draft.
"We are absolutely delighted to have Tyler," O'Brien said. "We were shocked that he was available to us at 13. We made the decision [a few years back] that we were going to build a team of people of high character that loved to be in the gym, that loved to work, that would be good teammates and good representatives of their community."
Williams spoke of his memories of coming to Poplar Bluff during the recruiting process.
He made a visit one fall to watch Hansbrough lift weights and shoot baskets. After a visit to a golf course with some Poplar Bluff coaches in the afternoon while Hansbrough was in class, Williams returned later that evening to watch a Mules pickup game.
"I couldn't talk to Tyler," Williams said. "It was during the time period that we couldn't talk to individuals, you could only watch him play.
"I remember walking back and saying to John David, I said, 'Coach would do me favor? Would you tell Tyler that I was here from weights at 7 a.m. and I was here for shooting at 7:45 a.m. and came back to the scrimmage at 7 p.m. and [Duke coach Mike] Krzyzewski's butt was just here for the pick up games.'"
Williams never will forget the time spent as Hansbrough's coach.
"It was a wonderful experience to coach him for four years and be in that locker room," Williams said.
Earlier in the program, Poplar Bluff Mayor Loyd Matthews read a proclamation and presented Hansbrough with a key to the city.
Later in the evening, Hansbrough remarked that he wished he had that key while in high school so he could have worked on his game.
"It would have been a lot easier to get in this gym," Hansbrough said. "I wouldn't have had to climb through the window or break a door. I was really religious about getting in here and working out and getting my shots."