- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The doubters have always been there throughout Tyler Hansbrough’s career, from his prep star days in Missouri to his stellar career at North Carolina to these early years with the Indiana Pacers. Same questions, too.

Can he defend? Is he athletic enough? Can he get his shot off? Is he too small?

The answers, too, have remained the same. The man once known as “Psycho T” has continued to succeed beyond expectations. Not only has he made it in the NBA, he is a starter and a key contributor to an Indiana team that is giving Chicago all it can handle in their first-round playoff series.

He hears the critics, but disagrees with a defiance that borders on cockiness.

“You always have to have confidence,” Hansbrough said. “I always felt like I should be on the court because I feel like I’m better than my opponents. That’s something that you have to carry with you.”

Whether he’s imposing his will on the boards or diving for a loose ball headed for someone’s lap in the first row, Hansbrough’s intensity embodies the effort the upstart Pacers have displayed against Chicago.

The Bulls have won both games, but the young Pacers have pushed them.

Hansbrough averaged 16.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in March as the Pacers made their playoff push. He scored 22 points in the opener at Chicago, then struggled in Monday’s loss, scoring six points on 2-for-12 shooting. For a player who won a national title at North Carolina and two state high school titles for Poplar Bluff (Mo.), just being close doesn’t cut it.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “We played with them. We were right there but we let it slip away at the end.”

Hansbrough certainly has Chicago’s attention.

“He’s a good player,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s hard playing, he can shoot the ball, put it on the floor. You have to give him a lot of credit.”

Hansbrough will make his home playoff debut Thursday in Game 3.

“This is what I was dreaming about as a kid,” he said. “I’ve always been a part of success. We’ll see what happens. Just got to go out there and prepare.”

Pacers interim coach Frank Vogel said Hansbrough’s success starts with his work ethic.

“You don’t do what he did in college and not know how to succeed,” Vogel said. “He’s got a motor that you see on the court, but you see him in practice, and in drills, one-on-zero, he’s going as hard in those drills as he is on the basketball court. Guys like that succeed.”

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