Friday, March 30, 2012

Former Hidden Valley star Luke Hancock goes the distance for Louisville

After transferring from George Mason, former Titans star Luke Hancock had to sit out this season.

Former Hidden Valley star Luke Hancock has been able to practice with the Cardinals, but isn’t allowed to travel with the team as he sits out a season under the NCAA’s transfer rules.

Courtesy of Louisville

Former Hidden Valley star Luke Hancock has been able to practice with the Cardinals, but isn’t allowed to travel with the team as he sits out a season under the NCAA’s transfer rules.

Luke Hancock

Louisville forward

High school: Hidden Valley, where he made All-Timesland second team as a senior and helped Titans twice reach the Group AA semifinals.

Postgraduate team: Hargrave Military Academy

At George Mason: made CAA all-rookie team as freshman; averaged 10.9 points and made All-CAA third team as sophomore, when he had team-high 143 assists.

This season: sitting out under NCAA’s transfer rule.

Luke Hancock isn't playing for the Louisville men's basketball team this season, but he has witnessed the Cardinals' success this month.

It hasn't been easy on his parents' wallets, though.

The Hidden Valley graduate is sitting out this season under NCAA rules after transferring from George Mason.

Because he isn't eligible this season, NCAA rules forbid him from traveling with the team or staying with the team in its hotel. So it has been up to Hancock - with the aid of his parents - to get to the Big East tournament in New York; the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Phoenix; and the Final Four this weekend in New Orleans.

"It's kind of once in a lifetime and I want to be a part of it," he said Thursday in a phone interview. "So I'm going to find a way to get it done.

"I've basically done all the hard stuff this year and haven't done any of the fun stuff. I've been in the practices, I've been in the film sessions, I've been in all the meetings, I've gone through all of our individual workouts. I felt like I needed, if it was possible, to get out there and be at the games to support the team."

Hancock said he does feel a part of the Cardinals (30-9).

"Those guys make me feel included," he said. "I love everybody on the team. Coach P's talked about it all year, how this is the best group of guys he's been around, and I completely agree. If you're in practice for three hours with those guys every day, you get close with them.

"It's kind of tough not being out there on the court [in games], but I just try to help out wherever I can."

Last season, Hancock made the All-Colonial Athletic Association third team and hit the winning 3-pointer for George Mason in an NCAA tournament upset of Villanova.

The small forward will be eligible to play in games for Louisville coach Rick Pitino next season as a fourth-year junior. Louisville's starting small forward this year, Kyle Kuric, is a senior.

After a 2-4 skid, Louisville dropped out of The Associated Press Top 25 the day before the Big East tournament began. But the Cardinals won the Big East tournament as the No. 7 seed and have won four NCAA games to reach the Final Four as a No. 4 seed.

"Guys are playing their best at the right time," Hancock said. "That's kind of a testament to Coach P and the way he gets guys ready to go at the right time. We're not turning the ball over near as much. We've got more of an effort from the whole team. We've got guys in all different positions playing well."

During the regular season, Hancock sat on the bench for home games. He also attended some road games, driving by himself or with team managers who had not been assigned to work that game.

The Cardinals won four games to claim the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. Hancock's parents paid for him to fly to New York for the semifinals and final. He stayed with the father of a team manager.

He sat behind the team bench for those two games in New York. Wearing a suit, he jumped over the bench and ran on the court to celebrate the championship with his teammates.

But he did not climb the ladder to cut down a piece of the net.

"I saved that for the guys that played and were wearing the jersey," he said.

Louisville was assigned to the West Region in the NCAA tournament. Hancock did not attend the team's wins over Davidson and New Mexico in Portland, Ore.

But his parents did pay for him to fly to Phoenix for the Sweet 16 win over Michigan State and last weekend's Elite Eight win over Florida. He stayed with friends for several nights, and his parents paid for him to get a hotel room for one night.

For those games, he sat in the second row of a section opposite the team bench. He went on the court for the celebration after the win over Florida but again opted to stay off the ladder when it was time to cut down the nets.

He enjoyed being in the locker room when the team continued the celebration there.

"It was fun, just taking pictures with the team and just trying to enjoy it with them," he said.

Hancock said the team has been "all business" in practice this week.

"This is not Coach P's first rodeo," Hancock said. "He's got everybody focused, ready to go."

Hancock said last May that he opted to transfer to Louisville to play "at another level."

It was a great decision, he said Thursday.

"Being around this team and this city, it's definitely worth it," he said.

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