UNC hoops is one of the benchmark programs in all of college basketball. Led by the dominating interior presence of Tyler Hansbrough, the Tar Heels are early favorites to secure a #1 seed come tournament time. Hansbrough, who's good for 22 points and 10 boards a game this season, recently sat down with MF to talk about his workout routine, his nickname, and what pumps him up before a game.
MF: So what it's like training with the grind of playing 3 to 4 games a week?
Hansbrough: During the season, we're not trying to crank out a max squat or bench or anything like that. We're more focused on, you know, playing a lot of games, and you're always running, so you're more focused on maintaining your weight and your health. During the off-season, you're always trying to hit the big weights and keep building your strength. During the season it's hard to do that because your body will just get worn out. You're just trying to maintain your strength. We lift a lot during the season. It's just not, let's say, seven sets of chain squats.
MF: That's off-season, right?
Hansbrough: Yeah, definitely.
MF: UNC basketball is a little different—most programs don't expect to go to the Final Four and win a National Championship every year. How has the culture of UNC affected you and your game?
Hansbrough: There is pressure here because it's a big-time basketball school with all the tradition. You feel like you have to win every game, no matter which team you're facing. No one's satisfied unless you go to the National Championship game or the Final Four.
MF: Looking back as a freshman, what did you want to improve upon to be able to dominate at the D-1 level?
Hansbrough: I would say, strengthwise, explosiveness was definitely a big key for me. Once I got into the weight room and trained a lot and worked on getting explosive in those first two steps, I think I really improved. I also think I needed to work on my jump shot a lot, though.
MF: Do you think your work with Jonas Sahratian, strength and conditioning coach for UNC Men's Basketball, has gotten you to where you want to be?
Hansbrough: Oh yeah, definitely.
MF: I'm going to ask you to look back in history a bit. Do you compare yourself to former UNC big men like Rasheed Wallace and Sean May?
Hansbrough: I'm not really comfortable comparing myself, but I'm confident in what I do. You know, those guys are great. Sean's done a lot of great things here. He won a National Championship and a Final Four MVP. That's really good. He's one of those guys I look up to.
MF: What's the biggest area you want to improve upon in your game now?
Hansbrough: A lot of people look at me and think I'm a banger, kind of a bruiser, but I think I do have a finesse game. It's just a matter of me using it.
MF: Do you take pride in that banger, bruiser mode, or do you kind of not think about yourself like that?
Hansbrough: You know, it's not a bad thing. I do think I have some finesse in me, too, but a lot of people think that I'm a banger.
MF: Is the weightlifting that you do all sports-specific?
Hansbrough: Yeah, definitely. We work a lot on our explosive lifts, like power cleans and chain squats. We do a lot of chain squats and chain bench presses.
MF: And that's all to build explosion?
Hansbrough: Yeah, we do the Olympic lifts for that as well.
MF: What do you do to work on your lateral quickness?
Hansbrough: We do some slides where you have bands attached to your ankles. Your left ankle is attached to your right ankle by a band and you have to keep your feet wide. We'll do slides on a mat, where we put socks on and we slide one side and slide back. We do a lot of stuff like that.
MF: We heard that you were selected to a national team over the summer, but opted out to stay in UNC to train. Is that right?
Hansbrough: Yeah, I got to a chance to go to Brazil and play for a national team, but I stayed in Chapel Hill to work with our strength coach. We tried to get more explosive for the court. He has an SUV that he'd keep in the parking lot, so we'd get behind it and push to build our leg and arm strength, too. We did a lot of plyometrics with the medicine ball, medicine ball tosses, over our heads, in front, a lot of different things.
MF: Just standing, tossing the medicine ball?
Hansbrough: We'll stand, take a jump forward, and throw the ball as far as we could, and then we do take a jump backward and throw it over our heads. We'd also do a lot of hill work. Sprints up hills are brutal.
MF: How many other Tar Heels were there this summer?
Hansbrough: I'd say about five(FOUR?-dh). Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, myself, Alex Stepheson.
MF: Do you enjoy working out?
Hansbrough: Yeah definitely. It's something that I've always done, and I've always enjoyed learning more about it. It's one of those things where I've learned that if I really improve in this area, it's going to show up on the court.
MF: What's your favorite part about the gym?
Hansbrough: I can probably bench around 330 pounds, that's probably my favorite lift, but my favorite part about the lift is when everyone's getting real intense, the music's cranking, you go up there and you power clean a weight that you didn't think you could get. That's always enjoyable.
MF: What kind of music do you have on in the weight room?
Hansbrough: We have everything. We have Ice Cube, Motley Crue. We change it up.
MF: What songs are on your iPod right before you take the court?
Hansbrough: I listen to a lot of Ice Cube, a lot of Tek 9.
MF: Do you have any superstitions?
Hansbrough: Yeah, I have to make two free throws before each game, and I can't sign an autograph on game day.
MF: How did you get your nickname, Psycho T? Do you hate when people call you that?
Hansbrough: I got the nickname through my strength coach when we were going through our intense workouts. It's funny sometimes, but also, I kind of like it. I enjoy being called Psycho. Call me Psycho T, Psycho. I'll laugh about it.
MF: Do random people on campus shout it out to you?
Hansbrough: Yeah, definitely. That's the best part, when somebody you don't know or don't talk to, they just call you Psycho.
MF: Can you diagram your own game? I feel like you've got some Charles Oakley in you. Are you half this guy, half that guy?
Hansbrough: I guess you could say Charles Oakley, or Dennis Rodman. He's kind of the undersized guy, and he's always doing a lot of the dirty work. I've always enjoyed watching him play.
MF: What's the worst taunt a Dukie's ever shouted at you?
Hansbrough: I would say Maryland's got the toughest fans to deal with, but the Dukies, they had some pictures of me, some high school pictures that were kind of funny.
MF: They dug them up out of the yearbook?
Hansbrough: Yeah. They did. They definitely did their work.
MF: But you said Maryland had worse fans, right?
Hansbrough: Yeah, they had pictures of my mom.
MF: In the stands?
MF: Oh, man. That's rough.