It’s been a whirlwind few months for Luke Hancock, a rising senior at the University of Louisville and a Hidden Valley High School graduate.
What’s he been up to, if you missed hearing about Luke Hancock Day in Roanoke County or his appearance at the recent Roanoke Valley Sports Club meeting for starters?
Oh, he was just the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) at the NCAA men’s Division One basketball championships in April, as many will recall. That’s where Hancock’s Louisville Cardinals won the 2013 title with a victory over Michigan.
“A lot more people want to talk to you and hang out…but it’s been great,” said Hancock recently. More and more people want a piece of him these days but Hancock needs time for his workouts and a part time job.
Hancock, a sixth man who comes off the bench to shoot three pointers, took on a larger role this year for head coach Rick Pitino, handling the ball more and playing aggressive defense. He had to step up again after Cardinals guard Kevin Ware went down with a gruesome leg injury in the Elite 8 round.
Hancock took it all in stride and received plenty of kudos from the CBS Sports TV crew as March Madness rolled along.
It’s been quite a ride and it’s not over yet: in late June he was scheduled to try out for the U.S. Men’s World University team, sort of an Olympics for college athletes only. Then there is next season and the possibility of a repeat with Louisville, which figures to be a contender again with the return of star guard Russ Smith – who thought about turning pro.
Meanwhile the former Hidden Valley standout, who went to two state semifinal games with his Titans, has risen to be an unlikely star. Slated as a Division III player (non-scholarship) at best, Hancock instead took his game to Hargrave Military Academy for a year, where he bulked up and worked at his game. “Honestly when I [first] saw those guys I didn’t know if I’d be able to play there,” Hancock admits. But he was up to the challenge after all. “It ended up working out all right.”
That netted him a D1 scholarship to George Mason, where Hancock hit a three-point shot two years ago that propelled his team to a postseason win. That season Mason also had the longest winning streak in the country. But when the head coach that recruited him, Jim Larranaga, left for Miami, Hancock – who has said he would have stayed at George Mason if Larranaga had stayed put – decided to look around instead. “I at least needed to look at my options,” Hancock recalls of that time period.
It didn’t hurt that his former coach at Hargrave, Kevin Keatts, was now an assistant at Louisville and helped recruit him.
After signing with the Cardinals Hancock had to sit out a year due to the transfer rule. Still he worked out with the team all season as they headed to the semifinals before falling. “I’ve made a couple of big [changes] in my basketball career and it’s turned out pretty well.” Hancock has tried to add something to his game “every year,” and wanted to shoot more consistently coming out of his redshirt season.
Hancock calls Pitino “a good guy” that really tries to make his players feel comfortable – but he’s also big on preparation. Nevertheless, sitting out a year was tough on him and Hancock had to overcome a shoulder injury early on.
That time away from the game prepared him however for the 2012-2013 season and the rest is history as they say.
“It’s not something you put on a checklist, but it is something you dream about,” said Hancock of the wild ride that he has enjoyed over the last year or so. “We knew we had the pieces to the puzzle [to win it all].” Now he’s hoping for an encore at Louisville, starting this fall.
You can watch Luke Hancock on “The Interview with Gene Marrano,” on Cox Channel 9 and on YouTube, debuting in late June.
Publisher’s Note: Luke Hancock’s father, Bill Hancock, died of cancer on Monday June 24th after this article was completed. He was 70 years old. Our condolences go out to Luke, his mother Van and their family.
By Gene Marrano