When Larry Bird drafted Tyler Hansbrough with the 13th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, reactions around central Indiana were mixed. Many fans, me included, felt that the Indiana Pacers needed to grab someone a little more exciting after several years of losing, but there was another contingent who bought into Bird's long-term plan and though that the North Carolina forward fit like a glove. It looks like that second group was right, because Hansbrough has been a tough-nosed part of Pacers teams that landed in the playoffs the last two years. On September 18, probably largely based on Tyler's success in the Circle City, the Pacers announced that they have signed his brother, Ben Hansbrough, to a free agent contract.
Ben Hansbrough played his college ball at nearby Notre Dame and, while not nearly as ballyhooed as his older brother, Ben did land Big East Player of the Year honors as a fifth-year senior in 2010-11. Regardless of his college success and a decent helping of interest from NBA teams, Hansbrough went undrafted last year and landed in Europe last fall. Heading into Germany with quite a bit of hype surrounding him, Ben struggled early on for various reasons and found himself riding the pine more often than draining jump shots. After a stint in Slovenia, the 6'3" point guard returned to the States to try and finally land a job in the NBA. Now that he has, the question is, what can offer to the Pacers this season?
Ben is obviously not Tyler, but they come from the same basketball bloodlines, so that toughness probably lurks in the younger brother somewhere. He may need to summon it if he hopes to break into the rotation in a meaningful way. Not only is he a year removed from his college game, he is also 24 years old already and facing injury concerns that have plagued him since before the 2011 draft. Add to that a fairly crowded Pacers backcourt and high team expectations, and the potential for splinters is pretty high.
Still, Ben is in the NBA at last, and his lifelong playmate is within arm's reach. What could be better than that?
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Pacers fan since the early 1980s and has witnessed the rise and fall of a great NBA franchise. He follows the current club closely but harbors secret hopes that Larry Bird will someday drain a three wearing Blue and Gold.