Hansbrough aims to be more vocal leader

UNC's Tyler Hansborugh drives to the the basket for a dunk during the annual "Late Night with Roy Williams" event Friday.
UNC's Tyler Hansborugh drives to the the basket for a dunk during the annual "Late Night with Roy Williams" event Friday.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- With his "Psycho" weight room routines, physical post presence and ultra-driven attitude, North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough always has been a leader by example.

But this season, the junior wants to add something new to his All-America muscle -- a stronger voice.

"It's going to be one of the more difficult challenges that I've had, because I'm not a big vocal guy," Hansbrough said last week. "That's going to be one of my keys to help my team out."

And, he hopes, it is one of the keys to leading his team to a national title.

Last season, the 31-7 Tar Heels fell one win short of their Final Four quest when they lost a double-digit lead, then the game, to Georgetown in the NCAA Round of Eight.

Bad shot selection and uneven defensive play down the stretch were two of the reasons for the young team's fizzle. But both were a symptom of a problem Carolina had struggled with all season: the lack of a vocal leader to inspire when necessary.

The Tar Heels, who return six of their top eight scorers, recognize it. And they want to solve it.

"I think everyone's got it in them, it's just whether you want to bring it out of yourself; that's the tough thing," said guard Marcus Ginyard, who is also prepared to take on a bigger leadership role this season. "Being that vocal guy, you really open yourself up ... to a lot of criticism and things like that -- when you become that person, when you want to speak up. It's just opening yourself up."

For Ginyard, a gregarious junior, vocal leadership comes naturally. For Hansbrough, a soft-spoken big man from Missouri, it's a bit more difficult. Friend Bobby Frasor, a junior guard, remembers rooming with him for the first time during summer school two years ago and barely getting a grunt in response to conversation. As they grew closer, Hansbrough chatted more and "these days, he even starts up conversations with people," Frasor said.

On the court, Hansbrough mostly let his 18.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game over the last two years do his talking for him. Until that painful loss to the Hoyas, which made him realize he somehow wanted to do more. Along with extending his jump shot and playing better defense, he thought, perhaps that meant saying more.

So he's trying.

"During pick-up, during the course of the summer, in the weight room ... I have more out of him," said senior point guard Quentin Thomas. That's a good thing, he added, because "... he's the type of player that can lead by example, but when he opens his mouth and keeps talking, you can't do anything but listen."

No one expects the 6-foot-9, 250-pounder to become a chatterbox. As coach Roy Williams put it, "I don't think he's going to change personality; he's not all of a sudden going to be David Noel and talk to the shadows."

However, "I just think human nature is, he'll be more involved," Williams said. "And he might like that, too. But I don't tell guys how to lead, I tell them, 'You've got to be a leader; you figure it out.'"

The Tar Heels say they think many players -- including Ginyard, Frasor, Danny Green and point guard Ty Lawson -- will step up their vocal leadership roles this season.

But Hansbrough would be a bonus. A big one, in more ways than one.

"Guys who rarely play, they can be motivators, they can cheer guys on," Frasor said. "But someone who's a two-time All-American, works as hard as anyone I've ever met in my life -- you're definitely going to take what he says to heart.

"... If he does, that would be great for the team, because then ... with everything he already does, he'd be the leader head and shoulders above everyone else."

• ROY STILL DIZZY: Williams still hasn't totally overcome the vertigo that struck him during early summer.

"Early in the mornings, I'm still a little light-headed, I can't shake it completely," he said. "It's hard; doctors can't give you their exact remedy for it, and everybody's got their grandma's cure, and they sent it to me, and I've tried everything you can possibly do. I've hung myself upside down, I've tried ginger root, I've tried diet Mello Yello. I've tried everything. I'm so dad-gum dizzy now from trying all the remedies, that may be what it is."

• THOMAS' KNEE HEALING: Thomas, a reserve, had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee roughly four weeks ago. Williams said he hopes the guard will be back to full speed by Nov. 1.