Dick Enberg

Hansbrough “Can’t Imagine” Not Spending All Four Years at UNC and Graduating With His Class

by Dick Enberg April 11, 2009 in Men’s Basketball


Another NCAA National Basketball Champion has been crowned.  To the musical accompaniment of “One Shining Moment,” the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina celebrated their season’s incredible success at Detroit’s Ford Field.

And, oh my, how this Carolina team did shine, stamping itself as a superior force throughout the entire tournament.  Omnipotence came to mind as I watched the Tar Heels smother Villanova by 14 in the Semi’s and dissect Michigan State by 17 in the Championship game.  Six wins in the Tournament, all handily by double digit margins.

It took me back, way back, to the UCLA teams of John Wooden in the 1960-70s to match such overwhelming domination.

I joined many others around the nation that wondered how they ever lost a game.  Yes, I know, Ty Lawson’s toe figured in one defeat, but how about the other three?  The point is: based on their six-game tournament run, it’s difficult to contemplate how ANY team could play at a high enough level to beat the ‘Heels.

Anyway, for one of the Tar Heels’ many stars, the night of April 6, 2009 was the culmination of four years of shining moments, not only on the basketball court, but within the academic environment of his Chapel Hill campus.  Tyler Hansbrough’s non-pareil performance as a four-time All-America First Team player and the leading scorer in Atlantic Coast Conference history speaks only in part to his tremendous accomplishments at North Carolina.

The fact, that Hansbrough chose to honor his full commitment to his University placed this superstar in another special category.  He deservedly earned the prestigious Lowe’s Senior Class Award for 2009.  In his award acceptance on CBS-TV’s national telecast, the 6-9 center from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, was quick to sincerely thank his professors, classmates, coaches, and teammates for making his four-year collegiate experience so positive.  He told me, “I can’t imagine missing what each day of these four years has meant to me.”  As my Australian friends would say, “Good on ya, Tyler!”

The Lowe’s Senior Class Award is based on the votes of the nation’s coaches, media, and fans.  Nearly 100 Division I coaches participated.  Hansbrough was joined by (alphabetically) Jimmy Baron (Rhode Island), Jerel McNeal (Marquette), Terrence Williams (Louisville), and Sam Young (Pittsburgh) as the top vote getters.  How would you like to take that group into a full season of competition?

The concept for the Senior Class award germinated in 2001.  Fans and the nation’s media were ruing the increasing number of defections of top underclassmen to the NBA.  Many argued that it was diluting the quality of the college game.  As a former college professor, I would argue that it was futile to spend time and energy worrying about kids who had decided to give up their education for the riches of professional basketball.  Let ‘em go!  Our colleges and universities are not designed as a farm system for the NBA.

Let’s turn this around, spend quality time saluting the top players who do remain in school, honoring their loyalty and commitment to their university.  It was the 2000-01 season and Duke University was on its way to the National Championship.  One of its stars, Shane Battier, had given up a chance to go pro in order to serve his senior season.  Here was a student-athlete worthy of national attention for fulfilling his obligation to his university.  During the Final Four telecast that season, I wrote and delivered a short essay addressing the situation.  Battier was my inspiration.  “Instead of wasting our time on those who leave early,” I argued, “why not take time to pay tribute to the Shane Battier’s of college basketball, who complete their full four-year commitment. The national response was terrific.  An award was born.

Interestingly, the first Senior Class Award winner was Juan Dixon of Maryland.  Dixon led the Terrapins to the National title in 2002, just as Hansbrough was instrumental in North Carolina’s win this year.  It feels good that in just eight years we’ve gone full circle—Dixon to Hansbrough—two seniors, leading their teams to the ultimate prize.

Following Dixon in 2002, here are the Lowe’s Senior Class Award winners:
2003—David West, Xavier
2004—Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph’s
2005—Wayne Simien, Kansas
2006—J.J. Reddick, Duke
2007—Alondo Tucker, Wisconsin
2008—Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
2009—Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina.

As spokesperson, I feel privileged to have rubbed shoulders with each of them, appreciating and applauding their outstanding character in the classroom, community, and competition; the 4 C’s that define the Lowe’s Senior Class Award.

Again, congratulations to Tyler Hansbrough….on track to proudly graduate with his senior class at the University of North Carolina this spring.  And thank you to Lowe’s for sponsoring this award, which has now grown to include basketball and eight other collegiate sports.

Oh my!  Four full collegiate years of moments that shine…for them and for us.