Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Heels' Lawson stung by fan criticism

A friend visiting a website devoted to North Carolina basketball brought some criticism to Ty Lawson’s attention.

Lawson was told some fans thought his sprained ankle wasn’t as bad as he was letting on. They thought he was missing games because he was preserving himself for the NBA draft.

“If you would think that, I think it’s outrageous,” Lawson said Wednesday. “I love playing basketball and want to be out there playing every game. I heard little things like that but didn’t pay any attention.”

Lawson missed six games with the sprain and has played the past three games in a reserve role. Coach Roy Williams expects Lawson to return to the starting lineup Friday, when North Carolina meets Wake Forest or Florida State in the ACC tournament quarterfinals.

The questions about his toughness bothered Lawson, who says he is competitive and doesn’t like to miss games.

“I’m trying to win an NCAA championship,” Lawson said. “Not too many people can do that. (A lot of) people in the NBA haven’t had an NCAA championship. That’s my number one goal.”

Lawson said Williams has told North Carolina’s players that the team is like a rolling ball, picking up speed. The Tar Heels have won eight in a row, and though three games in three days could tire them out, Lawson is looking forward to it.

It’s an opportunity to win a championship and prove he’s tougher than some people think.

Hansbrough in select company

Tyler Hansbrough laughed recently when a friend was rattling off big names in North Carolina basketball history.

The friend mentioned Phil Ford, Antawn Jamison and Michael Jordan.

And Tyler Hansbrough.

“Picturing yourself being up there, it’s kind of crazy to me,” Hansbrough said Wednesday.

A day earlier, Hansbrough had been named national player of the year by The Sporting News. The honor will make him the eighth North Carolina player to have his jersey retired.

But Hansbrough still is awed by those older players.

“We look forward to meeting those guys and look up to them and all the accomplishments they’ve had here,” he said. “And you look at it, when they put you in that category, it’s a great feeling.”

Some day, after he leaves North Carolina, Hansbrough hopes to have a trophy case where he can put all his awards, which included a unanimous ACC player of the year selection Tuesday.

But it’s obvious the individual honors don’t mean as much to him as winning. He can’t remember the first individual trophy he received, but has vivid memories of his first team championship.

As a second-grader, he led the Sacred Heart Hawks to a city private school championship in Poplar Bluff, Mo. He played point guard on a team of fifth-graders.

“It was awesome because we beat my brother’s team to win it,” Hansbrough said.

Talking to Hansbrough, it seems having bragging rights at home is almost as fun as having your jersey hanging in the rafters at the Smith Center. That’s probably what makes him so good.

– Ken Tysiac