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Former Hidden Valley standout Luke Hancock lost his father this summer, but he also traveled to the White House and the Kremlin.
Courtesy USA Basketball
Flag bearer Luke Hancock leads the U.S. delegation into the opening ceremonies of the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, in July.
Luke Hancock (back row, third from right) and the rest of the Louisville team meet President Obama.
Courtesy USA Basketball
Luke Hancock averaged 10.8 points for team USA.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
This continues to be a year to remember for Luke Hancock.
Last month was full of more highlights for the Hidden Valley graduate and University of Louisville basketball standout. He played for his country in the World University Games, served as the U.S. flag bearer in the opening ceremonies of those games — and even shook hands with President Barack Obama.
“It was an interesting month,” Hancock said Thursday in a phone interview.
The week after Hancock returned from playing for the U.S. team in Russia, he joined the rest of the Louisville squad for a White House ceremony on July 23.
Louisville won the NCAA tournament last April, when Hancock was named the Final Four’s most outstanding player, and it has become a tradition for a variety of pro and college championship teams to visit the White House.
Before Obama and the Cardinals gathered in the East Room for a ceremony in front of the press, Obama met with the team privately in the Green Room and shook hands with each player and coach.
“He did come up to me [in the Green Room] and call me ‘MVP,’ so I’ll take that,” Hancock said. “I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Luke Hancock,’ but before I could get to say my name, he said, ‘MVP, amazing game.’
He knew who I was, so it was pretty cool.
“He’s a big basketball fan and watched our games [on TV]. He knows a ton about strategy and the players — more than the average fan would know.”
So what did Hancock say to the leader of the free world?
“I was kind of nervous, so I shook his hands and just said, ‘Thank you,’ a bunch of times,” said Hancock, a rising senior.
Obama and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino spoke during the East Room ceremony, when the team stood on risers behind Obama.
“It was awesome,” Hancock said of the visit, which also included a White House tour.
Hancock met a former occupant of the White House earlier this year. Former President Bill Clinton was on hand when the eventual champion Cardinals won their Big East tournament quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden. Clinton visited Louisville’s locker room after the game.
“He was really cool. He talked to everybody, took a ton of pictures,” Hancock said.
“It’s been a wild year.”
This also has been a year of great sadness for Hancock, though.
His father, Bill, died of cancer June 24 — the same day Hancock flew from Louisville to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the USA Basketball tryout camp for the World University Games. His mother broke the news of his father’s death to him in a phone call during his layover in Dallas.
Hancock continued with the trip west. The camp for Hancock and 25 other players began that night at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
“My dad and I had talked and I basically promised him that I would do it,” Hancock said of competing in the tryouts. “I really thought about coming home, but in the end I figured that wouldn’t be the way to do things.”
At the end of that week, despite his grief, he was one of 12 players to earn a spot on the team.
“It was a rough month,” he said.
The World University Games were held July 7-16 in Kazan, Russia.
Hancock was the flag bearer for the entire U.S. delegation during the opening ceremonies. He does not know how or why he was chosen for the honor.
“To lead that many great athletes and great people out like that, it was an awesome experience,” he said. “It was wild.”
He started all eight games for the United States. He ranked second on the team in scoring (behind Creighton star Doug McDermott) with an average of 10.8 points. He also was second in 3-pointers (14).
“It was pretty unbelievable,” Hancock said of the games. “That was probably one of the coolest basketball experiences I’ve had. Obviously the Final Four is up there, but being able to play and have a USA jersey with your name on the back and your country on the front, there’s not a whole lot of better feelings.”
The team went 6-2, including losses to Canada and eventual runner-up Australia, and finished in ninth place. The team did not play champion Russia.
The squad was surprised to head home without any type of medal.
“There were great teams there,” Hancock said. “The Russian team … was very impressive. Australia and Canada were really good.
“We didn’t play as well as we would’ve liked, but my understanding is a lot of those guys have played together for a long time, have kind of come up through the basketball ranks through their years playing together — 17s, 18s, 19s and then the World University Games. That’s going to make you a much better team. We kind of put together an all-star team and didn’t quite have the chemistry to get it done.”
The team spent one day sightseeing in Moscow, including a tour of the Kremlin.
Hancock returned home for his father’s memorial service at a Check church on July 29. Hancock and the rest of the family received visitors, including a few of the Cardinals, at a Roanoke County funeral parlor the previous day.
He will return to campus next week.
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