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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hansbrough leads All-America team

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Tyler Hansbrough's junior year at North Carolina has begun much the same way his sophomore did, as the leading vote-getter on The Associated Press' preseason All-America team.

The 6-foot-9 forward was one vote shy of a unanimous pick Monday and was joined by senior center Roy Hibbert of Georgetown, senior guard Chris Lofton of Tennessee, senior guard Drew Neitzel of Michigan State and junior guard Darren Collison of UCLA.

The team was selected by the 72-member panel that votes in the weekly Top 25 poll.

Kansas University's Brandon Rush received the sixth-most votes, just barely missing the team. KU's Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers also received votes.

Last year, Hansbrough's season ended with a crushing loss, one win shy of the Final Four. When he said he would return to North Carolina after being selected a second-team All-America as a sophomore, he said he wanted to "improve my game individually." Then he added, "There's also some team things that I want to accomplish."

That would mean getting the Tar Heels deeper in the NCAA tournament. North Carolina lost the regional final to Georgetown, blowing an 11-point lead in the second half and missing 22 of 23 shots during one stretch that went into overtime.

The loss denied the Tar Heels a chance at a second national championship in four years. Hansbrough now wants to see what can be done this season.

"He's a unique young man who loves playing college basketball and loves being a kid and being in college and enjoys his teammates and that is extremely refreshing," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.

"He realizes the NBA is always going to be there. It's not in any danger of folding, and he is enjoying the journey. His uniqueness is refreshing, yet he is a player who is extremely focused as he has always been and how he has improved every year shows that."

Hansbrough wore a mask for four games after being hit in the face by Duke's Gerald Henderson in the closing seconds of the regular-season finale. He averaged 18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 52.5 percent as an inside force.

Hibbert received 62 votes, one more than Lofton, while Neitzel was on 37 ballots and Collison was on 31. Rush received 23 votes.

The 7-2 Hibbert, who would have almost certainly been a lottery pick if he entered the NBA draft, shot 67 percent while averaging 12.9 points last season as the Hoyas made the run to the Final Four. He was a real presence on defense, averaging 6.9 rebounds and 2.43 blocked shots.

Hibbert, Lofton and Collison all were honorable mention selections after last season.

Joining Hansbrough on last season's preseason team were Joakim Noah of Florida, Ronald Steele of Alabama, Glen Davis of LSU and Rush.

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