Tyler Hansbrough

Tyler Hansbrough’s Sports Hall of Fame journey begins in Poplar Bluff ​
Posted on 02/06/2023
(Back row, left to right) Glenn Eubanks, Greg Hansbrough, Todd Tinsley, Ross Whelan and Tyler Hansbrough; (front row from left) Bill Caputo, JD Pattillo, Billy Pyland, Jim Brown, Bill Burfield and Sheldon Tyler.

Tyler Hansbrough has joined a master class of sports figures from the Show Me State, becoming the Poplar Bluff school system’s fourth inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

Before he was named the NCAA’s consensus National Player of the Year and selected as a first-round draft pick in the NBA, Hansbrough led Mules Basketball to the program’s first two state championships.

“I have had a lot of college and professional success, but when I think back, it all started in Poplar Bluff, where I have some of my best memories of basketball – the chemistry with my teammates, coach [John David] Pattillo and [assistant coach Glenn] Eubanks, playing on the state championship team with Ben, who’s been an amazing brother to me as well,” said Hansbrough in an interview a week before his enshrinement took place on Sunday, Feb. 5, in Springfield. “This award may have my name on it, but it also represents Poplar Bluff, and the community that was a part of all the success.”

For those who were along for the ride, it was a golden era at Poplar Bluff High School, as iron sharpened iron. Former R-I Superintendent Randy Winston recalled how he lived across from the Hansbroughs in Bluff Estates, where they had a court in their backyard, complete with lines and an adjustable hoop.

“I went to sleep a lot of nights with the ball bouncing, and light shining in my window at 11 o’clock,” Winston remembered. Hansbrough would be playing pickup games with Ben, who was younger, and their older brother Greg, who also was a Mule during that initial season in 2002.

Coming from a bloodline of athletes, Hansbrough already had a strong reputation as a freshman from participating in basketball camp under legendary coach Gene Bess of the Three Rivers College Raiders, according to Pattillo, the head coach for the Mules. While Hansbrough had not yet reached his full 6-foot-9 stature, Pattillo said: “We knew that he was a bigger, more important part of what we were gonna be.”

In his first Mules Basketball game, Hansbrough got off the bench and scored double digits against Farmington, with several rebounds to boot, recalled Pattillo. “That was one of the only games he didn’t start in during his high school career, other than when he was injured,” the coach said.

President of the Poplar Bluff Sports Hall of Fame Brian Rosener, formerly of the Daily American Republic, had a reporting career that coincided with Hansbrough’s. When Hansbrough made that varsity debut, Rosener was named sports editor and assigned the Mules beat. "I joke how if it weren't for Tyler, I wouldn't have a house," said Rosener, elaborating how he was able to sell many newspapers for his coverage, with the help of a “really good staff.”

According to those around him, Hansbrough’s work ethic and discipline rubbed off on the team, motivating more athletes than ever to spend extra time in the gym. He would go to the weight room early in the morning, or sometimes in the afternoons, said Pattillo, and practice shooting hundreds of baskets. When the bus would stop at McDonald’s after games, added Winston, Hansbrough would pack his blender and protein shakes.

Past Superintendent Chris Hon, then over human resources, alluded to a skills leap Hansbrough made between his sophomore and junior years, playing with the Amateur Athletic Union at such camps as the Peach Jam in Atlanta. All of a sudden he was attracting the who’s who of the time in “blue blood” scouts, confirmed Pattillo. And he shined under the lights, reportedly having a perfect shooting night with 35 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in a semifinal game with then North Carolina coach Roy Williams in attendance.

Rosener remembered the school having to close the gates after JV games because E.T. Peter's Gym would reach capacity. Some games were moved to the Black River Coliseum to accommodate more people, according to past Athletic Director Bill Caputo.

“I’ve been here 57 years and he’s the best I’ve seen,” Caputo said. “This kid set goals for himself, and he did what he had to do to achieve them, which impressed me more than anything else.”

Caputo commented about Hansbrough sticking around after games to sign every program for students seeking his autograph. “He went from being regionally known to nationally,” observed Rosener, “and the attention he got here probably helped him get ready for what was to come in college.”

The team traveled to seek willing competition that attempted with no avail to shut down Hansbrough’s offense, prompting him to develop other aspects of his game like stepping out to the perimeter or attacking with his drive, according to Pattillo. “But when it came down to it, he wanted to take the ball and dunk on you every chance he could,” noted Pattillo, “and if he missed a shot, it would drive him crazy; he’s gonna go back and get it.”  

Hansbrough reflected in his interview about the Mules' consecutive victories in the Class 5 Missouri State High School Activities Association finals. "There's that small-town misconception in places like St. Louis,” he said, “yet we dominated the state for two years, and the whole community rallied behind us.”

It was with the North Carolina Tar Heels where Hansbrough earned the nickname Psycho T for his aggressive playstyle and high motor juxtaposed with his even-keeled off-court personality, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch once waxed poetic about. The DAR reported how “shooting through contact and drawing fouls became a staple” in his game.

Persevering through physical setbacks, Hansbrough scored over 5,000 points between Poplar Bluff and Chapel Hill, setting records with the Mules for points and rebounds in a career (2,464 points/1,175 rebounds), season (801 points/395 rebounds) and game (44 points/tied with 20 rebounds), plus state records in free-throws made (741) and career field-goal percentage (73.1 percent). As a junior undergraduate, Hansbrough swept all six of college basketball’s top player awards, and would go on to cap off his career by winning the NCAA National Championship, and breaking the Atlantic Coach Conference’s career scoring record with 2,872 points. His No. 50 jersey was retired at both schools.

“There were a lot of great players in the ACC, but not a lot of players have his tenacity, his toughness—he just was a different kind of guy,” Pattillo continued. “He is one of those—not a generational talent—he might be a half-century type deal.”

After being drafted 13th overall by the Pacers, his seven-year NBA run included two seasons with the Toronto Raptors and one with the Charlotte Hornets, amassing 2,881 career points and 1,808 rebounds. He spent a year in the G-League, then he joined the Chinese Basketball Association, when the “league changed and the power forward position faded away,” Rosener explained. “He really excelled over there, and was heading back, then Covid hit.”

Hansbrough was signed for another season in 2020, yet due to the global pandemic and associated travel restrictions, he did not appear in a game. He made his broadcasting debut as a color commentator for the ACC Network the following year. Hansbrough stated over the phone from North Carolina that he is “officially undecided” about his future, having now had multiple knee surgeries, but he is presently focusing on co-hosting a podcast called SleepHawk Worldwide.

In the Sports Hall of Fame, Hansbrough of the PBHS Class of 2005 joins Derland Moore of the New Orleans Saints and Eddie Moss of the St. Louis Football Cardinals and later the Washington Redskins, each of whom played Mules Varsity Football in the mid-1960s. Most recently, the Mules Boys Golf program was inducted, having earned six state championships through the 1990s.

“I think Tyler has been one of the best ambassadors for Poplar Bluff we’ve ever had,” said John Wolpers, who served the R-I Board of Education during the time Pattillo labeled “the pinnacle of basketball” at what would later be named Tyler Hansbrough Court, now located in the Middle School on Victory Lane.


Cutline: A representation of Poplar Bluffians gathered to support Tyler Hansbrough, just like old times, including (back row, left to right) Glenn Eubanks, Greg Hansbrough, Todd Tinsley, Ross Whelan and Tyler Hansbrough; (front row from left) Bill Caputo, JD Pattillo, Billy Pyland, Jim Brown, Bill Burfield and Sheldon Tyler.

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