- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A syrupy concoction of coachly praise was dispensed in celebration of Tyler Hansbrough after the cutting down of the nets at Ford Field on Monday night.

He stayed all four years with the North Carolina Tar Heels and secured the national championship he wanted more than the millions of dollars from the NBA.

It was said there was a beauty in that. A lesson, too. Are you listening, prospective recruits?

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo referenced Hansbrough during his postgame dissection. So did Tar Heels coach Roy Williams.

“I wanted this championship for Roy Williams, yes,” the UNC coach said. “But I desperately - and it's not war and it's not the economy or anything - but I desperately wanted this championship for that young man.”

He meant Hansbrough, a wonderful collegian who has had the temerity not to be seen as a dynamic NBA prospect.

Hansbrough has endured the wrongheaded thinking of being judged at a basketball level higher than the one he has dominated.

He probably will not become an NBA All-Star, as if that had anything to do with what he accomplished in four years in college.

The college game should have been his measuring stick - and he rated a big, fat A-plus there - but too many of his critics were considerably more obsessed with the NBA than he was.

That was wrong, just as it was wrong to anoint him the poster child of the stay-in-college debate.

That is just as silly as every high school star once employing Kobe Bryant's career trajectory as a model to bolster their prep-to-NBA argument.

The decision of Hansbrough to stay in Chapel Hill undoubtedly was made easier by a father who is an orthopedic surgeon.

We can assume money was less of a concern with Hansbrough than it might be with someone destined to become a family's principal means of support the moment the ink is dry on an NBA contract.

An unusual set of circumstances allowed these Tar Heels to be special, starting with the 23-year-old Hansbrough, a virtual senior citizen in the one-and-done environment of college basketball today.

Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green withdrew their names from the NBA Draft last June after learning their portfolios needed more heft.

The heft has been added; the NBA looms before Lawson and Ellington anew.

Williams claims to have no idea on what the two juniors will do. Yet it is not unfair to believe that both or at least one of the two will jump to the NBA.

That the Tar Heels fielded a starting lineup with two seniors and three juniors figured prominently in their stirring smack down of the Spartans.

They had the mix of top-notch talent and experience to block out the crowd and respond to the big-game atmosphere. They struck with a ferocity, and the Spartans never responded.

“You look at that team, and you have five or six NBA players there, and they could beat some of the worst teams in the NBA now,” Spartans guard Travis Walton said.

The Tar Heels certainly showed they were two or three steps ahead of the competition in the tournament. They won their six tournament games by an average of 20.1 points, recording double-digit victories in each outing. The combined total of their four losses during the season was 16 points. That is weighty stuff. Improbable, too.

The Tar Heels became the chosen ones of college basketball only after the guts of the starting lineup received a nudge to stay put from NBA scouts.

That essential assist went unrecorded in the national championship box score.

America might have preferred to see a game fraught with last-second drama.

What it received instead was the treat of a compelling team taking its place in college basketball lore.

What it saw was possibly the last of Hansbrough's kind, the great four-year collegian.

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