Tyler and Ben Hansbrough’s competitive spirit burns as bright as ever, even as they change ball sizes in their transition from the basketball court to the pickleball arena.
The Hansbrough siblings embarked on their pickleball journey approximately a year ago. According to Tyler, those initial matches against his brother, his brother’s wife, and her sister evolved into intense contests that ignited their passion for the sport.
A Few Sharp Words
Occasionally, their encounters reached the point that pickleball paddles and a few sharp words were exchanged post-match.
“Now that we’re 35 and 37, we have to make sure the temperature in the room doesn’t go up too high,” Ben, the younger of the duo, told Alex Abrams of Red Line Editorial, writing for usapickleball.org.
“And we’ve had that a couple of times, but we’ve grown from it. We’re both very competitive people, and it’s always been like that. But it’s been a lot of fun playing together as well.”
Starting From Scratch
The transition from dominating the basketball court to starting from scratch on the pickleball court has been an enjoyable learning curve for these former NBA teammates.
While Tyler acknowledges that pickleball may not be as physically demanding as basketball, given the absence of grappling with towering opponents, he does recognize the mental challenges inherent in the sport.
More than a decade after their tenure with the Indiana Pacers, Tyler and Ben are now gearing up to compete as doubles partners at the 2023 Biofreeze USA Pickleball National Championships, set to take place from November 5-12 in Farmers Branch, a suburb of Dallas.
They’ll share the stage with several other notable amateur players, including Hall of Famer Rick Barry.
Tyler, who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in late August, is renowned as the 2007-08 National Player of the Year.
His exceptional performance earned him the moniker “Psycho T,” culminating in a national championship victory for the University of North Carolina in 2009.
The Indiana Pacers secured Tyler with the 13th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Three years later, Ben joined his brother in Indiana, signing with the Pacers after being named the Big East Player of the Year as a 6-foot-3 guard out of Notre Dame.
Following seven seasons in the NBA plus a few overseas, Tyler sought a new sporting pursuit after bidding farewell to basketball.
“Like A Baby Giraffe”
His initial foray into pickleball occasionally led him to underestimate opponents who, at first glance, didn’t look particularly athletic.
This misjudgment sometimes left Tyler looking “like a baby giraffe” as he chased around the court in pursuit of shots.
Subsequently, Tyler got down to honing his pickleball skills in earnest. He attended pickleball camps alongside Ben, including one session where they crossed paths with professional pickleball player Jenna Hessert.
Hessert provided invaluable guidance, imparting various strategies for competitive play. She also conducted detailed analyses of their matches, identifying areas for improvement.
“Initially, when I started playing and just having fun, I didn’t know much about a drop shot, or my dinking wasn’t as good,” Tyler reflected.
“And then when I started competing and playing competitively, I was like, ‘Hey, I have to get really good at dinking, and I’ve got to get really good at these drop shots.’
“It’s a pretty easy sport to pick up, but to master it and advance and get a lot better, that’s where it becomes to me a challenge.”
A Dink Pad
Tyler’s passion for pickleball has gotten to the point where he plays on a daily basis. On the occasions matchplay is unattainable for any reason, he resorts to a Dink Pad at home for practice.
However, Tyler has learned to regulate the time spent on the court, mindful of the toll it can take on his body. Excessive play would often result in soreness the following day, a reminder of the wear and tear endured during his basketball career.
Ben also strives to get onto the court once a day. He emphasizes that a pickleball match exerts considerably less strain on his body compared to a basketball game, owing to the more straightforward movements and sliding involved.
Nonetheless, the Hansbrough brothers approach a pickleball match with the same meticulous planning and intensity they once applied to basketball.
“Funny To Say…”
“If we have a tournament coming up, usually a month before, we try to drill every day together and watch videos,” shared Ben.
“We actually have a coach that helps us out sometimes, too, so we are always trying to prepare well and be ready going into it.
“The (same level of) preparation for basketball comes with pickleball, too, which is kind of funny to say, but it’s the truth.”
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