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Louisville’s championship run has taken Luke Hancock and his Roanoke County family on an unexpected journey.
Courtesy Van Hancock
Van (from left), Luke and Bill Hancock when Luke made the transfer from George Mason to University of Louisville.
Hidden Valley graduate and Louisville junior Luke Hancock celebrates following the Cardinals' 82-76 win over Michigan in the NCAA Tournament final on Monday in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Bill and Van Hancock’s car is still decorated from their trip to watch their son Luke lead Louisville to the NCAA title.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Van Hancock stands Wednesday with a banner that a friend hung on their porch after her son Luke, a Hidden Valley High School graduate, lead Louisville to the NCAA basketball title.
From left, Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng, Luke Hancock and Tim Henderson watch the highlights of their team’s run in the NCAA Final Four college basketball championship during a ceremony.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Bill and Van Hancock drove to the Final Four in Atlanta last weekend to see their son Luke play for Louisville.
They never imagined he would wind up being the event's brightest star.
College basketball fans around the country now know who Luke Hancock is after he played a major role in Louisville winning the NCAA tournament.
Hancock, a graduate of Hidden Valley High School who comes off the bench for the Cardinals, scored 20 points against Wichita State on Saturday and had 22 points against Michigan in the championship game Monday. He became the first backup to be named the Final Four's most outstanding player.
"That was the happiest kid I've ever seen," Luke's mother, Venicia "Van" Hancock, said Wednesday at the family's home in Roanoke County. "That's the biggest moment in his life, and we got to watch it and be there."
But Bill Hancock, 70, is battling cancer. Last December, he was told that his cancer had spread to his bones.
So Luke's play has brought much-needed cheer to the family.
"It lets you focus on something else - something real positive," Van Hancock said.
Bill, who was an accountant before retiring, and Van attended a lot of Luke's soccer and basketball games when he was a kid.
"He would try to be at every game he could," Luke Hancock said of his father Wednesday in a phone interview. "He usually showed up to the game in a really nice suit, just came from his accounting office. He's always supported me."
Bill and Van also cheered Luke on when he played basketball for Hidden Valley High School and for Hargrave Military Academy's postgraduate team.
Luke became a standout at George Mason University. But coach Jim Larranaga left George Mason for Miami in April 2011, so Hancock decided to leave as well. He picked Louisville over Michigan, Virginia and others. He had to sit out the 2011-12 season under the NCAA transfer rules.
In December 2011, Bill Hancock was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had beaten another form of cancer years earlier.
Last December, Bill and Van were told the cancer had spread aggressively, becoming widespread skeletal metastasis.
Luke, 23, came home for Christmas, so his parents told him the new diagnosis at that time.
When he returned to campus, Luke benefited from the support of his teammates and assistant coach Kevin Keatts, who had been his coach at Hargrave.
It helps that Luke's half-brother Will Hancock lives in Louisville with his wife and child. Luke's support system also includes a Louisville couple, Bill and Susie Martin, who have become his second parents.
Despite the sadness he felt about his father, Luke was able to play a key role in Louisville's success this season. He ranked fifth on the team in both minutes (22.4 mpg) and scoring (8.1 ppg) and first in 3-pointers (63).
"It's been a really tough year," Luke said. "When you're out there on the court, you tend to forget about some things. My dad's always on my mind. But being out there, I felt good."
Bill has been undergoing chemotherapy and drug treatments. He had the energy to attend only a few of Louisville's regular-season games this year. Van did not attend many, either.
But Bill was not about to miss last month's Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"That was [on] the bucket list, to see your kid play in Madison Square Garden," Van Hancock said.
Bill and Van attended all three of Louisville's games in the Big East tournament. Luke scored in double figures in all three games to help Louisville win the title. Other family members were also on hand, including Luke's older brother Robert.
"I couldn't believe that Luke was this big-time and we were actually there in Madison Square Garden, seeing him play," said Robert Hancock, who lives in Banner Elk, N.C. "At that time, I was like, 'This is as good as it gets.' "
Louisville played its first two games of the NCAA tournament in Lexington, Ky. Bill and Van watched those games from home. They also watched from home when Louisville beat Oregon in the Sweet 16 on March 29 in Indianapolis.
Van wanted to watch the team's Elite Eight game in Indianapolis in person, though. She and Robert drove there and were in the stands when Louisville beat Duke on March 31 to clinch a Final Four berth. Luke scored 10 points in that game.
Bill watched the Duke game from home, but he wasn't going to do that for the Final Four. He and Van were in the Georgia Dome stands last Saturday, along with other family members, including Robert, Will and Luke's half brother Stephen Price. Their seats were right behind the Louisville bench.
"Being able to run out there and see [Bill] in the front row and see him with a smile on his face and him tell me he was proud of me, it really doesn't get better than that," Luke said.
In Saturday's 72-68 win over Wichita State, Hancock had 20 points in 31 minutes. The fourth-year junior forward was 6 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
The family also was there for Monday's 82-76 victory over Michigan. Luke tied his career high with 22 points - the most points by a reserve in the title game in 49 years. He became the first player to ever go 5 for 5 from 3-point range in the title game.
"It's wild," Luke said of winning the championship. "I don't think it's really hit me yet, what we did."
With Michigan up by 12 points late in the first half, Hancock had 14 points and four 3-pointers during a 16-2 run that gave the Cardinals the lead.
"I hurt myself jumping up and down. I tweaked my knee," Robert Hancock said with a chuckle.
The Cardinals cut down the nets after winning the title. After cutting off his piece, Luke ran over to his father so he could give it to him.
"I had the piece of net in my hand, but I was so excited to give him a hug and talk to him that I forgot to give it to him," Luke said with a laugh. "He'll get it pretty soon."
Bill and Van returned home from Atlanta late Tuesday night. Bill was too tired to be interviewed Wednesday.
But the cancer has not kept Bill from helping out his old firm during tax season.
"I hope he's got some years," Van Hancock said. "We're in the managing portion of it.
"Some people can live 20 years with this."
Luke has scrapped plans to stay at Louisville for summer school so he can spend time in Roanoke with his father.
The knowledge of his father's cancer never did affect Luke's play. He was 28 of 49 from 3-point range (57.1 percent) in his final 14 games this season.
"He's a strong kid," Van Hancock said. "He gets that from his dad."
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