There is a distinct difference in forward David Hanson’s personality on and off the court. When he’s playing, he is focused, aggressive, serious, instinctual and completely set on getting the team a win.
Off the court, however, his friends and family describe him as an easygoing, laid back prankster who likes hot chocolate, reality shows like “Jersey Shore” and teen-pop sensation Justin Bieber.
“He is completely bipolar,” said his brother Matthew, a Cal Poly alumnus who is now playing professional basketball in Australia. “You will see two different sides of him, but that’s what makes him so effective.”
Even while in high school, Hanson displayed his leadership abilities as captain of the basketball team three out of his four years. His high school coach Jeff Wahl said it was like having another coach on the floor.
“He had a knack to bring out the best in others,” Wahl said.
Hanson also displayed his kindness and good nature, as a well-liked student in his small Christian school — Maranatha Christian Academy — of less than 800 students in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
“He was classy all the time, befriended everybody,” Wahl said. “Everyone wanted to emulate him.”
Hanson grew up in Minnesota as the middle child of 10, with seven brothers and two sisters. He ended up playing basketball because of his brothers. His father, Tim Hanson, said his son gets along with many people because of his good character and his desire to “be a blessing” to people he meets.
“(His faith) accounts for the really positive qualities in his life,” he said.
In fact, one of the biggest aspects of Hanson’s life is his faith. He was raised Lutheran and is devoted to attending church, Campus Crusade and Athletes in Action, where athletes use sports to help answer questions of faith. He reads the Bible every day and even holds Bible studies when traveling to away games.
“My faith in the Lord, my relationship with him, that’s first priority,” Hanson said. “Everything that I do — basketball, school, relationships — it filters down into all those things.”
He attends church with his best friend and roommate Joel McKnight, an agricultural business junior. Hanson best exemplifies his off court personality at home where they share a room. Hanson has two posters of Justin Bieber and a quilt his mother made for him when he was born. He’s obsessed with keeping their room clean and keeps everything organized.
McKnight also said Hanson is a horrible cook, but he loves going out to places like Panda Express, Firestone and Chipotle. McKnight considers Hanson a great roommate and a great friend.
“Really loving, caring towards us, always looking out (for us),” McKnight said. “Kind of fatherly, shepherding us to make sure everything’s going all right.”
When not playing basketball, Hanson enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking and has tried to take up surfing, but admits he’s horrible at it. He also attends all of his roommates’ sports games when he can.
His other roommate and best friend, business administration senior Ricky Franklin, said they often walk down to the Chevron by their house to get hot chocolate and a DVD from the Redbox rental kiosk. Hanson likes to relax in solitude, watching movies like Step Brothers and The Hangover or “really stupid” reality shows.
“He loves ‘The Hills’ and ‘Jersey Shore,’” Mc Knight said. “(Television) shows he finds entertaining. He never had cable growing up.”
He expressed his distaste for Hanson’s attire, calling them “hideous massive thermals,” and said Hanson didn’t wear his basketball attire unless he had to. Hanson responded by saying in Minnesota you wear thick clothes and it’s just a habit. He also said he doesn’t like wearing his basketball gear because off the court he wants to show he’s not “such a jock.”
Yet, Hanson’s main priorities are “God, family, friends, basketball, in that order,” Franklin said.
Sometimes, these priorities overlap for Hanson. Maliik Love, guard on the team, said he knows his captain is always there for him. He describes Hanson as dead serious and competitive on game day but relaxed and loose off the court. Love said Hanson is the funniest person on the team.
“To me, he’s like a big brother,” Love said. “And a great leader out there on the floor.”
As a forward, Hanson is considered short for the position, standing 6-feet-5-inches tall. Forwards from other schools, such as UCSB’s Jaimé Serna and Jon Pastorek or UC Davis’ Mike Kurtz and Alex Tiffin, are all four to seven inches taller than him. That doesn’t stop Hanson, who scored a career-high 29 points against Cal State Bakersfield Jan. 29.
“I’m definitely undersized but I think I make up for it by being faster than the guy that’s guarding me which allows me to get open more,” Hanson said.
He said he doesn’t let the pressure of being captain of the team get to him and has just embraced it.
“I knew coming into this year that it would be a really big year for me and the team was going to need me,” Hanson said. “So I put in a lot of work in the summertime and I was really focused. I was confident coming in.”
While every win is something to celebrate, he takes from basketball something more than that.
“The memories that you make with the guys and the people you meet, in the arenas you play in,” Hanson said. “I think that’s the experiences that you remember.”
Originally published February 11, 2011 in the Mustang Daily.