Former North Carolina All-America Tyler Hansbrough always said his accomplishments wouldn’t hit him until he was gone.
Wednesday night, they finally did.
“It’s still hard for me to sit back and thing about it all – the great memories and things like that,’’ the forward said at halftime of the Duke-Carolina game at the Smith Center. “But when I walk into the gym and see my No. 50 up there, with all of the other guys, it kind of sinks in.”
Hansbrough, a rookie with the Indiana Pacers who led the Tar Heels to a 120-22 record over his four years at Carolina, including last season’s national title, became the eighth Tar Heel to have his jersey retired. He joins Jack Cobb, Phil Ford, George Glamack, Antawn Jamison, Michael Jordan, Lennie Rosenbluth and James Wrothy in the front row of the Smith Center rafters.
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Sitting in the stands with his father, mother and older brother Greg, he said it felt like he should be out there, in uniform again, trying to help his former team beat the Blue Devils. “But I know these guys,’’ he said of the current Tar Heel team, which entered the game 2-6 in the ACC. “They’re trying, and hopefully they turn the corner.”
It was a short, but emotional halftime ceremony, as Hansbrough was presented with his framed No. 50, and a montage of his greatest plays – including his shot that broke the school scoring record, and his bear-hug with coach Roy Williams after the Tar Heels won the title last April – was shown on the video boards.
“It was a great thrill for me to coach this young man, one of the most focused and driven young men I’ve ever known in my life,’’ Williams said at halftime, before going into the locker room to coach his team. “It’s a thrill for me to look up there and see him on the front row of the rafters. Roy Williams was a better coach because of this young man. Even more important, so important in my life, is what he taught me. It was a pleasure, son.”