Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
In Wake of Father’s Death, Hancock Forging Ahead With USA Basketball
Luke Hancock only wanted to talk about basketball on Tuesday.
And understandably so.
It had been little more than 24 hours since his father, William Hancock, died in his bed of cancer in the family’s Roanoke (Va.) County home at about 7:30 a.m. Monday. Luke, a 6-foot-6 forward who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four in April, was on his way to Colorado to attend USA Basketball’s tryouts for the World University Games when his father passed.
William Hancock was 70 and his three-year battle with cancer was well-documented during Louisville’s run to the NCAA championship in Atlanta.
“We caught [Luke] in Dallas and he went on to Colorado as we had talked about and as his father wanted him to do,” Van Hancock, Luke’s mother, told The Associated Press, calling her son’s opportunity to compete for a spot on the national team a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Now, Luke is forging ahead by trying to make the World University Games roster and sounded caught up in the practices.
“They’ve been very competitive,” Hancock told SNY.tv by phone Tuesday. “There’s a lot of great players here. It’s been non-stop, so it’s a lot of fun but it’s great competition and great players here.”
Hancock said he had been going up against Indiana’s Will Sheehey, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant and VCU’s Treveon Graham in practice.
“A lot of bigger guards that are really skilled, can really shoot it, got good all-around games, real athletic guys,” Hancock said.
Hancock averaged just 8.1 points during the regular season for a loaded Louisville team, but busted out for 20 points in the national semifinal against Wichita State and then poured in 22 points, making all five of his 3-point attempts, in the national championship game win over Michigan.
He believes the USA Basketball experience will help him take yet another step as a senior.
“I feel like I got my shot going at the end of the year, so I want to keep that going,” Hancock said. “And then I want to get to the rim a little bit more, kind of how I did freshman, sophomore year a little bit more, get back to that.”
Overall, playing against elite competition in this training camp can only benefit him.
“I think it’s going to be tremendous,” Hancock said. “You don’t see this type of competition every day. I feel like we have a great team at Louisville, but this is 20, 30 guys almost, where everybody is just top to bottom great players, and you just don’t see this very often.”
Louisville returns everyone from last year’s team except Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva, who expect to be drafted in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Dieng already told SNY.tv that he expects Louisville could be better in 2013-14 than it was last season.
Hancock doesn’t disagree.
“I think we have a shot,” he said. “I think guys have really improved. From what I hear, guys have really been working hard and the young guys coming in are going to be pretty special. So I think we can be right there.
“It would be tough to improve on last year, but I think we got a good shot of doing it.”
Both Dieng and Hancock believe Louisville will play a more up-tempo, guard-oriented offense going forward.
“I can see it,” Hancock said. “We don’t have a guy like him, we don’t have a big 7-footer that’s going to be in the paint patrolling the lane. There’s not really a guy that we want to dump it down to. We kind of want to run pick-and-rolls and get guys moving and play more of a face-up game. So I can definitely see us picking up our speed quite a bit.”
Obviously, much attention has been focused on the Louisville-Kentucky game set for Dec. 28 at Rupp Arena, in what could be a preview of the 2014 national championship game.
The two schools have won the last two NCAA titles.
Hancock says he hasn’t paid much attention to Kentucky and it’s historic recruiting class led by Julius Randle and Aaron and Andrew Harrison.
“I think we’re the team to beat,” Hancock said. “I haven’t really focused on Kentucky at all. I don’t know how many players they’re bringing in, I don’t know how many players left. I don’t know who’s coming back. I don’t know if anybody transferred.
“I was kind of worried about our season last year and we worry about Kentucky for about five days. And after we played them, kind of went on and I really don’t know who they have coming in or what their deal is. But I feel like they’re always going to be good. They have a great coach and they have great recruits coming in every year. I just haven’t focused on it very much.”
For the next week, Hancock only wants to talk basketball — at least publicly — and focus on his goal of making the USA roster.
The roster will be cut later this month and the team will then compete in the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
“It would mean a lot, a whole lot to me, personally,” he said. “Yeah, it would just mean a lot.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.