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November 6, 2007

Tyrone Hanson, I just want to play

In this exclusive interview with NYC Hoops, expelled University of Nevada player Tyrone Hanson tells his side of the story regarding the tragic incident that occurred Oct. 28 at a Halloween party at a Reno home and ended in a triple homicide.

Hanson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore forward who graduated from St. Mary's High School in Manhasset, N.Y., was beaten and robbed at the party.

Saili Manu and Samisone Taukitoku, both 19 and residents of Reno, were arrested on suspicion of robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and brandishing a firearm. Authorities also are looking for a "person of interest" who left the scene separately.

Police said they may also be charged with the deaths of Derek Jensen, 23, Reno, a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno; former UNR student Nathan Viljoen, 23; and Charles Kelly, 21.

Viljoen was shot in the kitchen, Jensen was shot in the driveway and Kelly was found in the backyard.

Police told the Associated Press that witnesses reported Hanson was arguing with Taukitoku, who had bumped him in an area where people were dancing. Taukitoku and Manu allegedly beat Hanson and stole his wallet and belongings.

Hanson tells a different tale.

"I was at a Halloween costume party and was dancing with my girlfriend," Hanson said. "I was bumped from behind. When I turned around, my chain was yanked from my neck and six guys jumped me. I never had time to say or do anything.

"They put a gun in my mouth. I was robbed. Those guys crashed the party looking to rob somebody. I did not know the guys that got shot."

Hanson believes that his life was spared when his girlfriend pleaded with the suspects to leave him alone. They heard the gunshots that killed the other three partygoers moments later.

Wolf Pack coach Mark Fox subsequently expelled Hanson for violating university policy by going out that evening when the team was (encouraged) not to. Fox told the Associated Press that Hanson already had been held out of a scrimmage earlier Saturday for violating team rules.

"He again violated our policy by going out socially that evening while he had been directed not to," Fox told the AP. "Tyrone and other student-athletes in attendance did not break the law, but Tyrone understands the high standard of behavior that is expected in our program."

Following the incident, Hanson said in a statement released by the university that he understood Fox's decision and wanted to extend his sympathy to the three victims.

"I have enjoyed my time here at Nevada and I am sad to see it come to an end," he said.

In an exclusive interview with NYC Hoops at his Valley Stream, N.Y. home, Hanson responded to his punishment by saying, "There were other basketball players at the party - including starters - and their punishment was only to run laps." According to Hanson, "Coach (Fox) told me I was expelled for my safety. I can't argue with that."

Although the AP reported that had been beaten unconscious, Hanson denied that and stated that the only reason he went to the hospital was for a contusion on his leg from being kicked. He went to the hospital, and by early Sunday morning he was on a plane back to his father's care in New York.

"I just want to play on a high level. I am healthy and I was just about to start this year," Hanson said. "I averaged 17 points, six rebounds and four assists per game in prep school and was ranked 21st in the country. I am ready to contribute to a team."

Hanson's AAU coach Kevin Hamilton - who arranged the interview said, "Tyrone Hanson is a good kid who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, but deserves to continue his career at another fine institution."

Several schools already seem to agree. Hanson has received interest from Hofstra University, Rider College, University of Albany, and University of Manhattan.

While wrapping up the interview Tyrone received a subpoena to appear as a witness in Nevada in the homicides.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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