Luke Hancock said there is no higher honor in basketball than playing for a USA national team. Hancock reported to camp Monday, the day his father, Bill, lost a 3-year-battle with cancer.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Of course, Luke Hancock was on the court in Colorado Springs Tuesday, chasing Rodney Hood of Duke, Will Sheehey of Indiana and the other talented players trying to earn one of the dozen spots on the USA Basketball World University Games team.
That's what his father, Bill, and mother, Van, decided that Luke should do well before Bill Hancock lost his 3-year-battle with cancer Monday.
Hancock flew to Colorado Springs Monday. He practiced Tuesday. He'll get the word on whether he makes the team Wednesday. Hancock even agreed to a pre-arranged interview Tuesday, with a request for no questions about his father, who was 70. Hancock dealt with his father's illness with quiet strength all winter. That has not changed.
Hancock reported to training camp because he wants to play for his country, because he wants to sharpen his game against better competition and because he'd love to make the trip to Russia and win a gold medal against international teams. The American team failed to medal in the World University Games two years ago.
Who is more determined to change that than Hancock?
"There are a lot of different reasons (why he wants to play)," Hancock said. "Everybody wants to put that USA across their chest and compete for their country. There is no higher honor than that right there. That's probably the biggest. I just really want to make the team.
"I'm an older guy, a veteran. I've been playing for quite a while. I can shoot the ball. I'm sure I'll try to do a lot of the little things. Pass the ball. Shoot the ball. I can make rotations and be in the right spot."
Hancock has no guarantee. Hood has the same confidence. Sheehey always plays with something to prove. Ditto for Jerian Grant of Notre Dame and Markel Brown of Oklahoma State. It's a talented group. The original invitation list included 29 names. Several guys have already withdrawn. More than half of the players in camp will be cut.
A committee of coaches that includes Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, Bob McKillop of Davidson, John Beilein of Michigan, Frank Martin of South Carolina and others will select the team. McKillop will coach the group when it departs for Kazan, Russia July 1. Competition starts July 7 and ends July 16.
Pressure to make a team? Pressure never makes Hancock hyperventilate.
He proved that at the Final Four when he made three-point shot after three-point shot after three-point shot after three-point shot and came home with the Most Outstanding Player award as well as the NCAA championship trophy.
"Different kind of pressure," Hancock said, with a laugh. "The Final Four was the biggest stage I've ever been on obviously. It's different. I didn't have that pressure. Coach P (Rick Pitino) might have pulled me a couple of times, but he wasn't going to cut me."
Hancock said he could not remember the last time he had to worry if his name would be listed on a Cut List posted in the gymnasium. His best guess? Never. He saw Cut Lists in high school in Roanoke, Va., but Hancock never truly worried about not making a team. This is different.
"A little edge to it," he said. "(I'll find out) tomorrow afternoon. I'm pretty confident. If I make it, that's great. If I don't make it, I'll go do something else. I'll go get ready to try to repeat."
For most of the nearly two months since he finished classes at U of L, Hancock has been at home, devoting time to his parents and family. He said he is not in top basketball condition, but that his shoulders feel the best they have felt since they were surgically repaired.
As well as Hancock played when the Cardinals surged to 16 consecutive wins and defeated Michigan for the national title in Atlanta, Hancock wants to play better. Take better shots. Scramble to more rebounds. Attack.
Make NBA scouts take a serious look at him for the 2014 draft? Sure. Why not? Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva hope to be part of the draft Thursday. Hancock would love his chance next year, too.
"It's in the back of your head," he said. "But right now my goal is trying to make Louisville as good as I can. I want our team to be as good as it can be and advance deeply, if that's playing 30 minutes or 2 minutes. If that's what it takes, that's what it takes.
"Just making sure we're ready to work. Making sure that nobody thinks just because we won it last year we're going to win it again. Just trying to be a leader, trying to be a captain."
And trying to be a solid contributing part for a USA national basketball team competing for a gold medal. Just like Bill and Van Hancock wanted.