PCHS, UK great Reggie Hanson to return home for book signing tour

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Former Pulaski County High School star and UK Wildcat Reggie Hanson will appear at PCHS on Monday, August 12 to sign copies of his new book "10 Life Lessons: Learned as a Student-Athlete."

Reggie Hanson has trod the hallowed hardwood of Rupp Arena, one of the great temples of basketball throughout the land.

He has donned the green jersey of the Boston Celtics, the same one worn by some of the game's greatest -- Bird, Russell, Havlicek.

He has even traveled all the way to the other side of the world, to Japan, to pursue his dream of coaching the game that he loves.

One place Hanson hasn't been? Pulaski County. At least not for a good little while.

"It'll be the first time I've been back to Somerset in ... man," said Hanson, pausing to calculate in his head. "It's gotta be at least 15 years."

It's not just Somerset, though; "I don't get back to Kentucky, period," he added.

That will change on Monday, August 12, when former Pulaski County Maroons great Hanson returns to the school that claims him as one of their own to promote his new book, "10 Life Lessons: Learned as a Student-Athlete."

The book, which was released in April of this year and is available on Amazon.com, is inspired by what he saw coaching players at his various stops. After his playing days at the University of Kentucky under Rick Pitino ended in 1991, Hanson bounced around various levels of basketball -- from the Louisville Shooters of the long-defunct Global Basketball Association, to a cup of coffee with Pitino's Boston Celtics, to the Isuzu Motors Lynx team in Japan where another former Wildcat, Dwayne Casey (currently coach of the Detroit Pistons) was roaming the sidelines as a coach. (The team's head coach, Mototaka Kohama, was also connected to UK, having spent time there studying the art of coaching back in the Joe B. Hall era.)

Hanson would follow Casey's lead and become a coach himself, first taking a seat next to Tubby Smith at UK from 2000 until 2007. After Smith's departure, Hanson took his talents to Tampa Bay to coach under Stan Heath at the University of South Florida, and in 2014, Hanson got a chance to return to Japan for a head-coaching gig with Shimane Susanoo Magic, playing in Matsue City.

"I love Japan," said Hanson. "I loved it as a player, I loved it as a coach. I could live in Japan. I love that country."

But Hanson found his way back to the states -- and back to Tampa, where he's found himself in a different field as of late, working as a sales manager for Dillard's department store. Which is not as different from basketball coaching as one might think.

"Everything I'm doing now goes back to what I was doing before," said Hanson. "Even at Dillard's, I have a team that I develop and coach every day."

Hanson is also a life coach for younger people, junior high schools through college-age. And with his new book, Hanson hopes to impart valuable life lessons he's picked up from his time around basketball.

"So many of my student-athletes that I coaches, they didn't realize how the things that we as coaches taught them translated to life," he said. "My goal with this book is to be able to help student-athletes visualize and see in real time going through different experiences with coaches how it will benefit them in real life. And I want the book to be a teaching tool to coaches at all level to show them how the different experiences with players translates to real life."

Hanson said that he has "a passion for helping young people become their best selves," which drives his calling as a life coach. His experiences with names like Pitino, Smith, Casey and Pulaski County High School legend Dave Fraley have allowed him to do that -- seeing what some coaches did that worked, and what didn't work.

"I saw how they handled different situations with other players," he said. "It helped me put things in perspective when I became a coach to be be better able to help players."

He added, "At the end of the day, the biggest thing is building trust with players. If a coach doesn't have a trusting relationship with a player, then the coach can't help that player become a better version of themselves on and off the court.

"The way to gain trust is separating them as a player and a person," he continued. "A lot of student-athletes come from a disadvantaged background -- education, socially. I had to have an understanding of that first before understanding what kind of player they are. Get to know what life was like at home, the different family situations they come from. Let them know my main concern is to help them in those areas first, basketball second. If a player struggles in those things off the court, they're going to struggle on the court."

Hanson definitely didn't struggle at Pulaski County. The big man averaged averaged 23 points per game and picked All-Region, All-State, and All-State Tournament honors, as well as the 1986 KHSAA State Basketball Tournament MVP after the Maroons defeated Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park for the state title. Simply put, on the high school level, Hanson was dominant.

But once again, it all goes back to trust.

"Some of my fondest memories are of just being on that team with my teammates," said Hanson. "The thing about that state championship team, when I moved to Somerset, I was in the eighth grade. That's when it started. That same team, we all grew from the eighth grade up to that championship year. We all grew up together and built that team up to the championship."

Hanson picked up winning ways from each of his iconic coaches along the way, starting with Fraley.

"Coach Fraley taught me the fundamentals of the game," said Hanson. "One thing I definitely credit to him, I was talented, I was athletic, but I didn't know how to play the game. (Fraley) developed my jump hook, and trained my shot. Then when I got to Kentucky, Rick Pitino took it to another level."

From Smith, the coach of UK's 1998 National Championship team and successor to Pitino, Hanson "learned how to manage games," he said. "(Smith) is a great coach at managing games."

Pitino gave Hanson more than knowledge though; he gave him the chance to fulfill every basketball player's dream of playing in the NBA when Hanson suited up for the storied Celtics franchise. Though Hanson only appeared in eight NBA games, utilized primarily for his hustle and scrappy demeanor on the floor, it is an experience that can never be taken away.

"It was a heck of an opportunity," said Hanson. "A lot of people strive to get that kind of opportunity. I felt very fortunate and lucky. It was a totally different lifestyle than any other."

The Lake Cumberland UK Alumni Club will make possible the Reggie Hanson Homecoming and Book Signing event on Monday, August 12 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pulaski County High School Auditorium.

Hanson's book, "10 Life Lessons: Learned as a Student-Athlete," will be available at the signing and costs $15.

Though he's been away for a long time, Hanson hasn't forgotten his roots in this area -- PCHS is the first stop on that book signing tour, and Hanson "wanted to make sure" that was the case, he said.

"I appreciate each and every one of them," he said of his friends and fans here in Pulaski County. "I get so many messages on my Facebook, so many direct messages on Twitter or Instagram, people that have my number, so many messages from people always telling me how proud they are of me and how they loved those days at Pulaski County High School, how they loved that team and that state championship.

"I'm so happy that team gave them that memory," he added. "I think everybody loved that team because everybody in Somerset saw that team grow from the eighth grade together up to that championship team."

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