Manhattan, New York (WUSA) -- When Madison Square Garden, the arena labeled "The Worlds most famous arena", outside of its doors is screaming, "Luuuuuuuke!" it's a telling sign of celebrity a basketball player has reached in their career. Showcasing his talents in the heart of New York City in this weeks Big East tournament is a far cry from where Luke Hancock was just two seasons ago, averaging eleven points and four boards a game for George Mason University. Now the junior guard-forward from Roanoke Virginia is shredding defenses with his lethal jump shot as a starter in Rick Pitino's high potent offense.
The one that slipped away? Not hardly.
Scarcely recruited out of prep school, Hancock was not on the radar of local college coaches. By the time he was, it was too late, for they had missed out on a gem. Kevin Keatts, now an assistant at Louisville, coached Hancock for one season at Hargrave Military Academy where the two made a run to the National Prep championship. Keatts played a key role in getting the sharp shooter to come to U of L where the two have joined forces yet again in their quest of another championship run; this time at the college level.
After his 12-point, 3-rebound performance in Louisville's 74-55 dismantling of Villanova I caught up with the Virginia native to learn more about why he didn't continue balling in his home state.
Talk about your playing experience at George Mason:
Its kind of where I started. I came out of Hargrave playing for Coach Keatts who's hear now. I played two good years at Mason. We didn't have a great year my freshman year, we kind of got it together and bought in my sophomore year. We went to the tournament; we actually beat Villanova who we played tonight in the tournament.
Side note: The kids humble too. Failed to acknowledge he hit the game winner. Oh, and Gus Johnson called it, enjoy.
We won 17 straight, it was a great experience playing for Coach Larranaga but then he left and went to the University of Miami. Once he made that change I felt like I should open up my recruitment and see where I could go.
With Larranaga leaving was it a no-brainer for you at that point in terms of transferring schools?
Yea definitely, I don't think I would have looked around if he had stayed. Once my situation changed I thought if everything is going to change I might as well look around and see what I can do.
You looked at Virginia Tech & Virginia, what persuaded you to not go to those schools and was Maryland ever an option?
I didn't, I didn't look at Maryland. I kind of did my recruiting a different way I didn't want to just put it out there and have every one come to me, I kind of put some schools down and I went and talked to them. I didn't really give my release to too many people, but yea Virginia and Virginia Tech were both on my list.
You've talked about playing for Kevin Keatts. I know he's played one of the bigger impacts on your career. Talk about how important he's been in your development in the game of basketball.
I mean he saw me when I was in High school and not many people thought I could play Division I basketball. He kind of brought me along and I worked out with Chad Meyers who was his assistant all summer before I went to Hargrave then a spot opened up for me when we started playing. I started at the four (power forward) basically the whole year. We had about 10-11 guys who went Division I so I got a lot of exposure there. Then we both felt like it was a good fit for me to go to George Mason. I played two good years there and he was the first call I made when it was time for me to start looking again (after Larranaga's departure).
Was he on the Louisville staff at that point when you made the call?
No, actually he wasn't. He stopped talking to me and I got kind of nervous actually, but he had to get a release because he was signed here, he didn't want to get into trouble, any violations or that sort of thing. Eventually he got here and showed my tapes to Coach P, talked me up a little bit.....
And next thing you know you're a Louisville Cardinal...
Yep, I mean I had to sit out last year.
Lastly, how about Coach Larenaga, are you surprised with what he's doing at Miami, at all?
Its kind of shocking that he did it that quick. But obviously I think he's a great coach, once he got great players around him, he's got a great point guard, great big guys, shooters on the wing, he's got great pieces right there. Kind of shocking he did it that quick but I think he's a great coach and he'll have a ton of success.
How far will this Louisville team go?
All the way.
-- What I didn't know about Luke was that he's a team captain. I caught up with Coach Rick Pittino to find out the commending story of how that came to be and what intrigued him about the former George Mason guard.
Talk about what you initially thought when Coach Keatts showed you his tape.
Well, I called coach Jim Larranaga and the assistant Chris Caputo, and they said if you want a guy to take a shot at the end of the game he's your guy, if you want someone to inbound it, he's your guy, someone to grab a rebound, he's your guy. Then I said what about some to get a stop, they said, "he's not your guy." But you know what, he's improved so much on defense and I never thought I'd say that.
How critical is it he was able to sit for one year after transferring and he's got these two years of eligibility left?
Its great for us, you know he never played a game for us and was named captain. Pretty impressive.
You've got to explain this one...
He went into the guys, well, they decided in the summertime during summer school to lift at 6:30 in the morning. Two guys showed up late, and the story was told to me that Luke said, "that's not going to fly here guys, we're on time, you're not on time, and that's going to be a problem." And the interesting thing is that came from two veteran ball players and they said, "Your 100% right, it won't happen again." So right away everyone had respect for Luke, so that's pretty special.
Luke Hancock and the Louisville Cardinals play Notre Dame tonight at 9pm in the Big East semifinal.