Hansbro set to make impact as sophomore

Xavier Hansbro looked the part of a quality college basketball player last season – tall, lean, nice outside shot, skills to move toward the basket and help on offense or defense because of his size. Just a nice addition as a true freshman to a program that needed help.

The 6-foot-9, 230-pounder actually appeared in a lot of games his first year as an Ole Miss Rebel, although it may not have seemed like it. Hansbro played in 25 contests, scoring in nine of them. A deft outside shooter for a big man, he connected on two or more 3-pointers in four games.

Perhaps the first game of the season was his best. The Trezevant, Tenn., native drilled 4-of-6 treys including three of them in the final 3:44 for 12 points with three assists in his Rebel debut against Southern Utah, a 69-62 UM win.

There were other positive games for the West Carroll High School product, who was Class 1A's Mr. Basketball in the state of Tennessee after his senior season. He scored eight points and had three rebounds vs. Nicholls State. He hit 2-of-4 from 3-point range for six points with four boards against Saint Louis. He knocked down 2-of-5 shots from 3-point land for six points vs. Centenary. He totaled Southeastern Conference highs of four points and four rebounds at Kentucky.

But that was then and this is now. It's a new day for the Rebel program, and Hansbro feels year two will be better for him and for the team.

"I feel better about things than last year," he said. "There's some freedom to do things and the speed of the game is different. We're getting up and down the floor, and that will help us."

Hansbro continues to explain things from his perspective.

"It's a better offense, a faster offense," he said. "We've been getting up and down the court more. I've been hitting my open shots better, and I've been working hard on my rebounding and playing better defense. I think I've improved in all areas, but I have a lot of work to do."

Hansbro's versatility is a real key to his game.

"I'm more of an inside guy," he said. "But if the defense wants to play me more inside, I can go outside. It's either/or, so I think that helps my game."

Outside shooting is a positive for him.

"It's one of my main strengths," said Hansbro, who averaged 27.8 points, 14.6 rebounds, and seven blocks as a senior at West Carroll. "I'm real comfortable with that. I've focused on that, and I know this year there will be a lot of big guys on me. I want to be able to help at the 3 or the 4. Just depending on how the defense plays, I want to be able to pop out and shoot it."

New head coach Andy Kennedy says Hansbro will be an important player for this year's team.

"Xavier Hansbro has made a huge transformation from year one to year two, which you hope for," Kennedy said. "He's been great. He adds a lot of versatility to our front court with his ability to face the basket and make shots. He gives us some true size along our front line. He's really performed well to this point."

Kennedy says Hansbro's versatility can really help the team.

"We're going to spread the floor offensively," he said. "We've really tried to key on our spacing and some of the ways we're trying to attack. Because of his ability to stretch a defense, that really helps us. A lot of times interior guys don't like to go out on the perimeter, but in Xavier's case (defenders) are forced to extend because of his ability to make perimeter shots. That helps the guys he's playing with inside, because it gives them more room to operate."

Hansbro says even though it's a new day for him and for the team, last year was important.

"I learned a lot last year, even from just watching," he said. "But I actually played a lot. I played in enough games to learn some things on the court. It was up and down for me and for the team last year, but the experience helped me."

Hansbro says he's much stronger and better conditioned than when he arrived at UM.

"I've gotten faster on my feet," he said. "My jumping ability has gotten better. I'll be a lot better on defense this year. I believe everything's coming together for me and for the team."

The Rebels will open practice for their fans to get a first glimpse of the 2006-07 team this Friday at 6:30 p.m.

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