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Hansbrough hoping to make it at the next level

By Mike Monaco | Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On a cold February night in 2011, former Irish and current Indiana Pacers guard Ben Hansbrough heated up Purcell Pavilion on Senior Night.

The then-senior closed out his home career in red-hot fashion against Villanova, as he connected on seven of 10 three-pointers and finished with 30 points. Hansbrough, who was later named the 2011 Big East player of the year, teamed with then-senior forward Tim Abromaitis for a total of 16 three-pointers.

“That was my Senior Night,” Hansbrough said. “I was so mentally ready for that game that I don’t think anybody was going to be ready to come in and have a chance to beat us, especially the way [Abromaitis] helped me out too.”

Eighteen months later, Hansbrough returned to Notre Dame when the Pacers battled the Chicago Bulls on Friday night in an NBA preseason game. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound point guard played for the Pacers in the Orlando Summer League and earned a spot on the preseason roster. Hansbrough entered the game Friday off the bench in the first quarter to raucous cheers and played nearly five minutes as he ran the Pacers offense.

But for Hansbrough, playing on the Purcell hardwood in front of a sold-out arena wasn’t as familiar as you might expect.

“I’m not really used to the game starting off and I’m being on the bench at Notre Dame,” Hansbrough said. “So I got to see the crowd and I’ve never really noticed the crowd I just go out there and play [when I was at Notre Dame].”

Despite the differences between his swan song against Villanova and his relatively quiet appearance Friday, Hansbrough said he was thrilled to be back at Notre Dame, this time as part of an NBA contest.

“It’s been great,” Hansbrough said. “Every time you have an opportunity to step on this court and come back and play at Purcell Pavilion it’s a thrill. Especially to do it at this level is just another dream to come back and play at Notre Dame.”

A self-described long shot to make the team, Hansbrough survived a recent round of roster cuts to play another game at Purcell. On Monday, Hansbrough remained on the trimmed-down 15-man roster while fellow guards Blake Ahearn and Sundiata Gaines were released.

“I came in as an underdog but with hard work I was able to show people what I was able to do and it helped me out,” Hansbrough said.

Known for his never-ending practice sessions in “The Pit” and insatiable work ethic during his time at Notre Dame, Hansbrough carried that same approach to the NBA and caught the eye of Pacers head coach Frank Vogel.

“[His work ethic] is not just on the court competing in practice, but coming in early and staying late,” Vogel said. “He’s been the first guy in our gym every day since we’ve been in camp. You kind of expect that for a guy that’s making a team but I don’t think it’s just because he’s trying to make the team. I think that’s who he is.”

Vogel added that Hansbrough is a well-rounded player who impacts the game in a variety of ways.

“His toughness, his feistiness is all very positive and helps contribute to winning basketball,” Vogel said. “He’s a shot-maker, a good three-point shooter and he makes solid decisions with the basketball running the point guard spot.”

But Hansbrough, who led the Irish in scoring as a senior and was a second-team All-American, said he has had to get acclimated to his niche on the Pacers.

“I’d say my role [is the biggest adjustment],” Hansbrough said. “Almost everybody in here was an All-American, the stud of their college team, and you go to the NBA where your role completely changes. So it’s different. But this is the NBA, you have to try to get better and better every day and worry about what you control.”

The 24-year old took control of his training regimen this summer. Hansbrough said his older brother Tyler, a fourth-year forward for the Pacers, has taught him how to work out like a professional.

“I’ve made a lot of progress this summer,” Hansbrough said. “I’ve gotten in really good shape and I’ve been working out really hard so it’s been good for me. … [Tyler] taught me how to approach the game. He’s given me some real good tips on how to work out and how to train, how to be really professional about it. Watching how he handles his business too, he’s always been a role model of mine in that aspect.”

For all the progress he has already made, Hansbrough said he knows he needs to stay the course and keep elevating his game.

“[The next step] is just continuing to improve, become a better basketball player, work on my game every day and try to help this team in ways that I can,” Hansbrough said. “Right now I’m a rookie and just trying to improve and improve.”

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu