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UNC's Hansbrough has stress reaction, out indefinitely

By Robbi Pickeral
robbi.pickeral@newsobserver.com

North Carolina basketball forward Tyler Hansbrough had missed only two career practices prior to Thursday. Now, he'll miss an indefinite number more.

The consensus national player of the year was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right shin, coach Roy Williams announced in a statement, and the senior will be sidelined for an unknown period of time.

Reached Thursday night, Tyler's father, Gene Hansbrough, said he was confident his son would heal soon.

"I think he'll get well pretty quick," said Gene Hansbrough, an orthopedic surgeon. "...These things happen, and he'll be all right."

No matter the time frame, the injury -- which is usually the precursor to a stress fracture -- could be painful to a team that was the unanimous No. 1 pick in the coaches poll, released Thursday, and is expected to be ranked atop The Associated Press poll, which will be released today.

Hansbrough averaged 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds a game last season and is the central player on a team that is expected to make a repeat trip to the Final Four. In all, UNC returned its top six scorers from last season -- although starting small forward Marcus Ginyard is sidelined until December after having surgery on his foot.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Hansbrough had been feeling soreness in the leg over the last few days, so he sat out Thursday's practice and underwent an MRI, which revealed the stress reaction.

In an interview with The News & Observer on Monday, Hansbrough did not indicate that he was feeling any pain. But when asked what made him most nervous about this season, he said: "Just how things are going to go ... you want to make sure you play good, and do whatever you can to help the team. It's tough sometimes; injuries happen and things like that, but whatever you can do, that's what it's all about."

Hansbrough is the first Associated Press National Player of the Year to return to school since LSU's Shaquille O'Neal in 1991, and the first consensus national player of the year to come back since Virginia's Ralph Sampson in 1982. He would likely have been a mid-to-late first-round draft pick had he jumped to the NBA early, but he opted to not even to "test the waters," saying he wanted to leave college with a national title.

"It would definitely be exciting," he said Monday of winning a national championship. "But we just have to take those baby steps and see what happens."

Williams planned to meet with Hansbrough and the medical staff today, according to the statement released by the school.

Hansbrough is 122 points shy of Phil Ford's 30-year-old school scoring record of 2,290 points, and he is also within reach of the ACC career scoring record of 2,769 points, held by Duke's J.J. Redick. He has already qualified to have his jersey retired once his career is over.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound native of Poplar Bluff, Mo., has played in all 108 games during his previous three seasons in Chapel Hill; in order to keep that streak intact, he has two weeks to heal before the Tar Heels' season opener on Nov. 15 against Penn. UNC takes on UNC-Pembroke in an exhibition game on Nov. 8.

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