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Hansbrough reaps reward for resisting NBA riches

TYLER Hansbrough turned his back on the NBA's riches last year for a shot at leading North Carolina to the NCAA basketball title.

The decision left him an unpaid-student athlete instead of a highly-paid professional player for another year, but he said it was a small price to pay after the Tar Heels' 89-72 victory over Michigan State yesterday.

"I'm glad I stayed, this is a dream come true," Hansbrough told reporters after the Tar Heels' victory at Ford Field.

Talk of Hansbrough being the number one NBA pick has been replaced by debate about whether the ultra-competitive 6-foot-9 forward will even be a top 15 selection in June's draft.

But he insisted he had never had a second thought about his decision to return.

"A lot of people doubted me this year but looking back on things, people can say whatever they want because now I'm part of something special that most people will never get to experience.

"We didn't win last year but we got it done this year and look where we are right now."

After letting the championship slip away a year ago, Hansbrough and team mates Ty Lawson, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington resisted the lure of the NBA to return to Chapel Hill for one last shot at one of U.S. sport's most coveted crowns.

"That is the best decision I ever made in my life (to come back)," said Ellington, voted the NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "To experience this with my team mates and to to be here, national champions, it is all worth it."


Hansbrough may ultimately end up paying the steepest price for the national title he coveted.

The best player in U.S. college basketball a year ago, according to many scouts he was not even the best player on his own team this season.

But Hall of Famer Magic Johnson said Hansbrough's decision to return is one he will never regret.

The former NBA great, who led Michigan to the 1979 NCAA title, counts it as his top basketball memory ahead of Olympic gold medals and championship rings.

"The NCAA championship is still the most special," said Johnson.

"We were innocent kids back then. That's what makes the NCAA tournament, March Madness, so special."


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