After earning CCAA Freshman of the Year honors while averaging 10.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game on the winningest men's basketball team in UC San Diego history, Chris Hansen is showing no signs of a sophomore jinx. The 6-foot-7 Lafayette native is the leading scorer (14.8 points per game) and rebounder (6.7 per game) for a Triton club that has raced out to a 9-2 start and is ranked 20th in the nation. "Chris is a talented guy who has worked really hard to not just help us but develop as a player," says UCSD head coach Eric Olen. "He made a lot of progress between his freshman and sophomore year, and even since the start of this season to now. He's at a point where he's consistently playing at a high level and a big part of our success." With the team now on an NCAA-mandated seven-day holiday break, Hansen took time to look back at the exciting 2015-16 season, talk about his teammates and head coach, and take a peek at what UCSD might be capable of before 2016-17 is over.
Q: How would you describe your game?
HANSEN: I would describe my game as a big-bodied post, banging underneath while occasionally stepping outside to stretch the defense.
Q: Where did you get your basketball size and talent?
HANSEN: Although my parents are not the biggest, my grandparents all handed me down some tall and thick genes. As for my talent, both my mom and dad were athletes and helped teach me how to work hard to get to the level I am at today.
Q: You were CCAA Freshman of the Year in 2015-16. Did that surprise you, and has it put any added pressure on you as a sophomore?
HANSEN: I was very surprised and grateful to receive the conference Freshman of the Year award and coming back as a sophomore, I just wanted to keep improving off of a successful previous season. I know I have the teammates who will challenge me and make it possible for me to keep the level of my game rising, so there is no pressure there.
Q: What was your favorite moment of the 2015-16 season?
HANSEN: My favorite moment of the 2015-16 season was being a part of the crazy game-tying basket by Drew Dyer off the full-court assist from Kenny Fraser against Sonoma State. It was my first time on the winning end of a (buzzer-beater). How can that not be my favorite?
Q: You took only eight three-pointers all last year (making one), but are 9-for-17 through the first 11 games this season. What gives?
HANSEN: I have always been confident in my ability to shoot three-pointers, but coming in this year, I think I am a little more comfortable with my role and know that it is a shot I can knock down when given the opportunity. I also find myself in the position to shoot that shot a lot more having a huge threat like Adam Klie driving to the basket so effectively.
Q: In your last game, a victory over Cal State Dominguez Hills, you scored 24 points and pulled down seven rebounds, the last basket, a game-winning three-pointer with less than two seconds remaining. What were you feeling when you saw the ball go through the net, and was that the biggest shot you've ever made?
HANSEN: As I let that shot go I just kind of watched and as it went in I was in shock. I had never hit a game-winner before, so I don't know if it was the biggest shot I've ever made, but it was definitely the most exciting.
Q: Talk about the move from Campolindo High School to UC San Diego as both a basketball player and student. What was it like, and was there a moment when you felt that you belonged in both places?
HANSEN: Moving down from Campolindo, I knew I was making a great decision. Coming from a coaching staff that pushed me very hard, I knew I was going to be able to work my way to being successful both on the floor and in the classroom. As soon as we started practicing, I felt a part of the Triton family, and that those guys were as good a friends as I could have anywhere.
As far as academics, Campolindo prepared me pretty well there also. There's still some work to do in that area, but with the foundation from Campo, after the first quarter or two I felt pretty comfortable in the classroom. Actually, I got a good grade on my first essay in CAT 1 (Culture, Art and Technology), and since I'd never considered myself a very good writer, I felt like maybe this wasn't going to be as hard as I'd imagined.
Q: As a college player, what's more important, honing your physical skills or improving the mental aspects? What has been important for you in both areas at UC San Diego?
HANSEN: For me, it has been crucial that I work on my mental game. I sometimes find myself frustrated and digging myself in a deeper hole. I have also found it important to keep positive and move on if something doesn't go my way. Along with the mental aspect, everyone in college is better and brings something to the table, so in order to distinguish yourself, you need to work hard in order to improve your game every chance you get.
Q: What's a skill that you'd like to borrow from one of your teammates? On the court and off?
HANSEN: One skill I would like to borrow from one of my teammates is Eric Patton's huge effort on the glass. He is one of the best rebounders I have ever seen, and always finds a way to irritate me in practice with the impressive talent. Off the court, it would have to be Adam Klie, who has a 4.0 GPA in bioengineering. I'd like to have his commitment to schoolwork and always finding a way to prioritize that.
Q: How would you describe head coach Eric Olen's coaching style? Is there anything he harps on you about?
HANSEN: Coach Olen's coaching style is great. He is a fantastic leader who knows everything about basketball, whether it be breaking down a play or drill and explaining it to us when we need it, or when to get on us for being sloppy. He has everyone's attention all the time, and a great grasp of the ins and outs of basketball.
Q: Last summer you had a job back home in Northern California in the field of commercial real estate. What did you learn from that experience?
HANSEN: I learned how important it is to carry these competitive skills from sports into everything you do in life. It is crucial that you give 100 percent effort to whatever it is you're doing in order to be successful.
Q: In basketball, most big guys have interesting nicknames. For you, Dancing Bear seems to be the most popular among your teammates. Do you like that one, or is there another that is your favorite? Is there another nickname on the team that you think is particularly noteworthy?
HANSEN: Throughout my years in basketball I have had a lot of nicknames. Up until college, the name Pops stuck with me from all the way back in the sixth grade, but now I have moved into the name of Dancing Bear, or even more common, C-Bear. It's hard to not like the nickname that implies both a loving big bear and a beast on the court.
As far as other nicknames on the team, my favorites are The General for Eric Patton and Bob for Adam Klie. Obviously, he goes by Adam, but his middle name is Robert and everyone on the team calls him Bob.
Q: Campolindo was home to many past and present UC San Diego student-athletes. Where do you rank on the list of all-time Campolindo products?
HANSEN: I think I still have some names to pass on the list, as there have been a boatload of impressive and successful athletes to emerge from Campolindo. I am going to work hard to make my case and move up on that list in the coming years. Lots of time to improve!
Q: Can this be the first Triton team to win the CCAA regular-season men's basketball championship?
HANSEN: I think so. We are a hungry group of guys who know what we are capable of doing. We just need to keep at it and work hard every day and stay sharp. There are a lot of games in this conference, so we have to maintain our effort, energy and enthusiasm, and play downhill for 40 minutes every night. We have to leave it all out there, and I think we can come up with a championship.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Cassie MacLeod (Women's Basketball) December 16, 2016
Natalie Tang (Women's Swimming & Diving) November 18, 2016
Nolan Mac (Men's Soccer) October 13, 2016
Scott Acton (Men's Cross Country) October 6, 2016
Marie Paris (Women's Volleyball) September 16, 2016
Kiera Bocchino (Women's Soccer) September 2, 2016
Nick Alexander (Men's Water Polo) August 23, 2016
Karina Carstens (Women's Cross Country) August 8, 2016
Amanda Colla (Women's Volleyball) July 22, 2016
Palano Twins (Men's Soccer) July 13, 2016
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