When Florida Southern College men's basketball coach Mike Donnelly talks about Brett Hanson, he can't help but smile.
Donnelly has good reason to smile.
Hanson, who was one of Donnelly's first recruits when he took the job four years ago, is on pace to put up some impressive career numbers.
Heading into his senior year, Hanson has posted 1,543 points, 631 rebounds, 290 assists and 155 steals. Hanson needs just 467 points to become just the third player in Mocs history to reach the 2,000-point plateau.
The other two were John Ebeling (2,514) and Kevin Capers (2,319).
"Those numbers are amazing, what he's been able to do," Donnelly said. "What he's going to be known for is a guy that never takes a possession off, and that's why he excels. For me, he's up there as one of the all-time greats in terms of his work ethic and his approach to the game.
"He's been a home-run recruit as a player, student and person. He's fit all those categories for us. He's really developed in his four years here. He came into the program when we weren't very good. He got a lot of playing time and he was able to play through a lot of mistakes. We knew he was going to be really, really good, but I trust a lot of what our long-term supporters were telling me. In his freshman year, they were saying he's going to be an all-time great here. To his credit he's on that trajectory. He's the heart and soul of our team."
Hanson is also the leader of the team.
As a four-year member of the squad, Hanson's been through the lean years, and he's hoping that the team can build off consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division II Regional Semifinals.
"It's weird, but I feel like I've been working toward this my whole career, learning how to be a leader on the court," said Hanson of his time at Florida Southern. "We're in a good position where we have a lot of experience to help out the younger guys, and bring us closer as a unit."
The Mocs won't have Jonathan Lawton's scoring touch this year. Instead, they'll look to rely on Hanson and a number of transfers to help even the scoring load.
Donnelly brought in senior-transfer Jair Rodgers from Concord, who led the nation in 3-pointers per game (4.03) last year for Division II. That helped Rodgers average 20.9 points a game.
Also coming in as transfers are Xavier Rhodes, who won a Division II national title with Northwest Missouri State last year, Brandon Caroll and Division I junior Jalyn Hinton from Jacksonville.
Florida Southern will also have returning senior center Jack Rauch, and sophomore guards Kai Cleary and E.J. Dambreville.
With the mix of returning players and new transfers, the worry for Mocs fans would be how well they mesh.
Hanson isn't worried. In fact he is pleased at how well everyone has come together so far.
"It's definitely a growing process between guys coming in from different schools, but we're coming together a lot faster than I thought we would," Hanson said. "Right from day one there was pretty good chemistry, but we're further along now than I thought we'd be. Credit to them, they're doing a great job of working hard and accepting the culture."
The true test will be to see how well the Mocs play when the season truly begins at the Gulf South Conference/Sunshine State Conference Challenge against Delta State on Nov. 9.
That will be the first of five road games the Mocs will open up with before their home-opener against New Haven on Nov. 29 in the Terrace Hotel Thanksgiving Classic.
Donnelly thinks he has the right mix of balance and experience to help the Mocs get past the South Region semifinals.
"Last year we were a good team, but we didn't blow anyone out," he said. "We won so many close games last year. When you have a shotmaker like John (Lawton), I can't tell you how many huge shots he made the past few years. That's my biggest thing now is who's going to make those big shots. You only find that out in those situations. Right now Brett's going to be our leader and Jack Rauch as well. I think we're going to be a little more diverse, and a lot harder to guard because you're not going to be able to focus on one or two guys."