Former Manchester Central star is at 2,000 points and counting for Florida Southern.
REMEMBER Brett Hanson? For those who don’t, maybe this will jog your memory: Hanson, a Manchester resident, was a key piece on the 2014 Manchester Central boys’ basketball team that capped an unbeaten season with a victory over Merrimack in the NHIAA Division I championship game.
That team was an offensive juggernaut, with exceptional 3-point shooters complementing Hanson’s ability to slash and finish at the basket. Hanson transferred to the Tilton School after that season. He repeated his junior year at Tilton, and, after graduating, moved on to Florida Southern, where his basketball career has continued on an upward trend.
Hanson, a 6-foot-2, senior guard, scored the 2,000th point of his college career when he tossed in 23 points during an 82-77 victory over Embry-Riddle on Feb. 1. He became the third player in the program’s history to reach that scoring milestone.
Hanson entered last week as the No. 3 scorer in Florida Southern history (2,018 points). He also ranked seventh all-time in rebounds (783), seventh in steals (198) and ninth in assists (400). This season he’s averaging 22.4 points per game (he’s shooting 49.1 percent from the field), 7.2 rebounds per game and 5.0 assists per game.
What makes all those numbers even more impressive is this: Hanson was moved to point guard for his senior season.
“It’s incredible what he’s done here,” Florida Southern coach Mike Donnelly said. “He’s been tremendous for us. He plays a ton of minutes and he always guards the other team’s best player.
“Getting to the rim and finishing is still his strength, but his game has evolved tremendously during his four years here. He’s a tremendous rebounder. He has a knack to find the ball.”
Florida Southern, which is located in Lakeland, isn’t what you would call a run-of-the-mill program, either. The Mocs (21-1), who are currently ranked No. 6 in the country, have a rich history that includes 30 NCAA Division II tournament appearances, 10 Elite Eight appearances and national championships in 1981 and 2015.
So how did Hanson get away from the college basketball programs in New Hampshire — UNH was the first school to extend Hanson a scholarship offer — and end up at Florida Southern? It has a lot to do with his sister, Kelsey.
“I got a call from Marcus O’Neil, his coach at Tilton,” Donnelly recalled. “He said, ‘I have a player who I think would be a good fit for you.’ We get calls like that all the time, so I didn’t think much of it. Then he said, ‘His sister goes to school there, and if you show interest I think he’ll come down for a visit.’ That’s when I started to perk up, because something like that can give you an edge (in recruiting).
“After looking at his game film I thought he was a Division I player. We knew we were going to offer him, but we didn’t do it right away. I don’t like to make offers over the phone. I’d rather do it in person. We felt even better about things after he came down here and we watched him play with some of our guys, our older guys. I was just worried a Division I school would come in late.
“Luckily his sister went here, and when he stepped on campus it was something different for him.”
Hanson said he had nothing against the college basketball programs in New Hampshire, but his preference was to attend college somewhere other than his home state.
“I was focused on going Division I for most of my high school career, which was not necessarily the right way to look at it,” Hanson explained. “I was the second or third option for some Division I schools. When I came down here for a visit it was obvious I was a top priority. It was the best decision I could have made. Not sure I envisioned having quite this much success.”
Hanson started in 81 of 94 games during his first three seasons at Florida Southern. He averaged 17.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game as a junior, when he was seventh nationally among Division II players in minutes played per game. He averaged 18.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game as a sophomore, and 13.0 points and 6.1 rebounds as a freshman, when he started in 20 of 29 games for a team that went 11-18.
Hanson said although he experienced plenty of growing pains as a freshman, playing so much that season proved to be a huge benefit to his game.
“I was able to make a lot of mistakes, which freshmen tend to do,” he said. “Losing teaches you a lot.”
Donnelly said playing through mistakes that freshman year allowed Hanson to gain a tremendous amount of confidence.
“He’s a confident kid on the court, but he’s so unassuming off the court,” Donnelly said. “Really good student. Serious about his academics. I think the success he’s had has a lot to do with who he is as a person. He’s a very humble, nice young man. He really is. He’s great to be around every day.
“The reason he’s so good is he brings it every day in practice. He’s never missed a weightlifting session, a conditioning session, a game. He’s not even low maintenance — he’s zero maintenance off the court. By the middle of his freshman year we knew we had something special here. He’s an all-time great here. He’ll be a Hall of Famer.”