LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Before moving along with the usual summer business of college basketball news and nonsense, The 'Book needs to acknowledge the uncommon character of University of Louisville senior-to-be Luke Hancock.
The Final Four Most Outstanding Player lost his father to a long battle with cancer last week. He was en route from Louisville to Colorado Springs to try out for the U.S. World University Games team when he got the news.
These were days that the father and son knew were coming. Hancock spent nearly four weeks back home in Virginia with his father, and this was the course the men decided upon. Hancock would play. He would try to make the USA team, regardless of what happened.
When asked about it late last week, University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino told WHAS Radio's Terry Meiners, "Luke obviously is in a difficult time with his father passing. I don't know how focused he is on making that team."
Hancock made the team. And not only did he make the team, but he has been one of its main scorers in early workouts. Fran Fraschilla wasn't keeping official stats in a Saturday scrimmage, but estimated Hancock at one point had made 7 of 8 three pointers. Adam Zagoria said Hancock made four in a row, causing USA assistant coach John Beilein of Michigan to have flashbacks.
"It looked like the game against Michigan," Zagoria said USA head coach Bob McKillop told SNY.tv, referring to the national championship game.
"[Michigan coach and USA assistant] John Beilein was sitting on the bench and said it was a replay of what happened in the national championship."
McKillop also said of Hancock: "He's as crafty a player as you can find. He's just really crafty. He understands angles. There was one stretch where he hit four straight (threes), just great shots."
Hancock doesn't talk about difficulties. When he spoke to WDRB the day after his father's death, it was made clear that he did not wish to discuss it publicly. It's rare for young people to handle anything privately in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Hancock, however, manages to handle great adversity with high accomplishment.
Now, on with the 'Book . . .
PITINO TO BE INTRODUCED BY BROWN, VITALE AT INDUCTION
Pitino discussed several matters in a Thursday interview with Meiners, including who will introduce him during his September induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
New members must be introduced by current Hall of Famers, and Pitino had a wide selection to choose from given his years in the game and wide-ranging contacts. In the end, he'll be introduced by two men: Hubie Brown and Dick Vitale.
Vitale was probably Pitino's most passionate proponent for Hall of Fame inclusion. Hubie Brown is one of his most important influences in coaching.
"Dick has really, really helped college basketball coaches and promoted the game," Pitino said. "And Hubie, who I learned so much from with the Knicks, I asked those two to do it."
Pitino also asked another former coach to sit with him at the ceremony. Jerry Tarkanian is a fellow Hall of Fame inductee in the current class, though his failing health makes it hard for him to travel. Pitino said he has asked the 82-year-old former Nevada-Las Vegas coach to sit with him, along with several others.
IS LOUISVILLE 'AMERICA'S TEAM?'
A couple of weeks ago, Craig Victor, a power forward out of New Orleans who is seeking a scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky, said UK is "America's Team" for high school recruits.
U of L this week pointed out in a release that it is the only school with representatives on the USA under-19 team (Montrezl Harrell) and the World University Games team (Hancock). It also has Shoni Schimmel on the women's World University Games team.
Pitino said last week that the summer competition is good for his veteran players.
"(The main benefit) is just great competition," Pitino said. "It's very good competition in practice. They get a chance to see different things. Montrezl has done it two years in a row. Russ (Smith) is going to go to Spain, so it's good for our guys."
UK's talented freshmen were invited to try out for the U-19 but opted to report to Lexington to begin workouts with each other instead. Calipari urged them to do whatever they wanted, and encouraged them to play for Team USA if they wished. Pitino said he understood, with young players, the desire to get to campus.
"With older guys, they know what its all about," Pitino said. "For guys like (redshirt freshman) Mangok (Mathiang) and some of the freshman, Akoi Agou, it's much better to be with our strength coach and me for individual instruction."
PITINO SAYS THIS TEAM HAS SAME FEEL AS HIS 1997 UK TEAM
Pitino took a UK team with some pieces returning from his 1996 NCAA championship and went back to the title game in Lexington. That team also reached the championship game before losing to Arizona. When Meiners asked Pitino if this group had the same feel, Pitino didn't back away from the comparison.
"Actually it does," Pitino said. "Because we're coming off back-to-back Big East championships and back-to-back Final Fours, which is also very special. We're very excited, but we're not taking anything for granted . . . On the other hand we're looking forward to next season's team. I think our guys will stay hungry and humble."
In early workouts, Pitino said he's impressed with his incoming guards.
"I'm very impressed with Chris Jones, very impressed with Terry Rozier. Those two guys are outstanding basketball players," Pitino said. "Now they have to learn our system and I think they will. Anton Gill needs to get stronger. And Akoi is very, very skilled. We just have to work on his body. He's lost 25 pounds, and now we'll just try to get his body fat under 10 percent."
HARRELL PERFECT FROM FIELD IN BLOWOUT OF RUSSIA
Those who have watched international basketball competition for years can't remember many USA-Russia games quite so one-sided as Saturday's 115-47 victory.
U of L's Harrell went 6-of-6 from he field and had six of the American's 15 steals. His 13 points were second-most on the team.
CALIPARI HOPING COMPETITION CREATES TOUGHNESS
University of Kentucky coach John Calipari wants more than strength from numbers. He wants struggle.
If there's one change in the coach from last season's frustrated father figure who suffered through an NIT loss at Robert Morris, its that Calipari says he is going from protecting players to prodding them. That's what he hopes the competition in summer workouts and in preseason practices does for his talented young newcomers -- and the Wildcats who have returned.
"Part of the lesson that we learned and I did as a head coach is you can't protect players," Calipari said on last week's Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. "Competition is what brings out the best in all of us. And if it doesn't, you must learn that you can't blame, you can't hide from it. It needs to bring out your best. It needs to wake you up earlier in the morning. It needs to get you working harder. It needs to get you smarter about what you're doing in your training, more disciplined, more conscientious.
"Last year we had eight guys on scholarship. When we had an injury, we were playing seven scholarship players. I did it somewhat to protect some of the guys in the program and you really can't do it that way. You've got to have the full complement. And what happens is now there's competition. Now you really see guys blossom."
Much has been made of the challenge of creating chemistry on this season's team, in part because it formed in such abundance on Calipari's 2012 NCAA championship team, and in part because it was so absent from last season's team. But Calipari said this group really doesn't remind him of either of those two teams.
"I probably -- I've been thinking about this a little bit -- compare this team more to our team my first year than I compare them to the 2012 team. This will probably be a team that won't be a great execution team because of so many new guys like our first team, yet a team that can physically do things that athletically, physically, skill-wise, that can do things to beat teams even though they're not the greatest execution team."
In other words, where last season's team seemed to have little margin for error, this season's team may be able to get away with more mistakes simply because it has such superior talent. But that doesn't mean putting them all together won't be important.
"It's going to be interesting," Calipari said. "I know I hear all the comments about our incoming freshmen and they're this and they're that, but at the end of the day if you want to do something special, you've got to be a terrific team. . . . How good we're going to be all depends on how they come together or how hard they are willing to work for each other, how much leadership we get from within the team and some of the returning players. It should be interesting."
WILTJER LOOKING AT GONZAGA
CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman reported his week that Kyle Wiltjer, who has received his release from UK, spent two days last week visiting Gonzaga before returning to the Canadian team for the World University Games.
Wiltjer received his release to a limited number of schools, and is expected to make a decision on transferring after competing his international competition this summer.
CREAN CALLS NBA DRAFT 'A GREAT NIGHT' FOR INDIANA
After Victor Oladipo went No. 2 in the NBA Draft and Cody Zeller No. 4, Indiana coach Tom Crean said he was delighted and, on a conference call, talked about what it meant for the players and the program.
"I think the fact that both of them went the way they did speaks volumes about their work ethic, about their character, about the intensity and competitiveness that they have. And in my mind as a coach, the greatest thing about the two of them moving forward is the upside, the tremendous upside that both of them still have. Because Victor just turned 21 in early May, and Cody's not 21 until October. So there is a tremendous amount of growth in those guys that we've had the privilege of being a part of the last couple of years."
Crean said the night also could pay dividends for his program, and that the staff won't miss an opportunity to get that message of draft success to recruits.
"I think it just brings a different dose of energy. I think this program has a lot of energy anyway. It's one of the things we're built on. There is no question it brings more energy," Crean said. ". . . The assistant coaches were on the phone a lot. I think that was important. There was a lot of texting going back and forth. There were a lot of phone calls going back and forth. We were already recruiting in the sense to try to win as much as we can, so I don't think it's going to change the person that we're recruiting as much. But I think what it signifies, and I said this to the coaches this morning before we started camp, I said this goes to show that you don't have to deal with any entitlement. You don't have to deal with any enlightening guys to make them think that this is a great program. This is a great program."
'RIVALRY' DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS SEEKING FUNDS
When they started out to make a documentary about the UK-U of L basketball rivalry, director Rory Owen Delaney, producer Wade Smith and producer Adam Lefkoe didn't realize what was about to happen. The schools went on to meet in an epic Final Four faceoff in 2012, with UK going on to the NCAA championship, only to be followed by U of L winning it all in 2013. They not only realized that they were capturing great passion in the rivalry, but that they had caught it in a historic period.
Lefkoe, sports anchor at WHAS, got involved with the documentary outside of his local TV role, partnering with the Man Bites Dog Films production company to try to make the rivalry a reality.
From there, it has become a project of passion for him.
"We've worked really hard on it and gotten so much great input everywhere we've turned," he said. "We're really proud of it, and we're entering the home stretch."
Now, the group is looking for funds to finish the project, The Rivalry: Red V. Blue, which they say is 80 percent complete. They have set up a Kickstarter fund raising page to take pledges for the film, with the goal of raising $40,000 by August 5. To get involved in supporting the project, you can visit the Kickstarter page here.
ONIONS: RAFTERY LEAVES CBS TO JOIN FOX SPORTS 1
Bill Raftery isn't leaving college basketball announcing. But he will be walking away from ESPN's coverage in order to continue calling Big East Conference games and to join the Fox Sports 1 start-up national network.
Raftery was coach at Seton Hall for 11 years and a was a mainstay of ESPN's Big East "Big Monday" telecast for many years. His banter with ESPN's Jay Bilas will be missed, but his voice in the booth will still be available, and his contract with CBS to call the NCAA Tournament, which he's done since 1991, will continue.
"We completely understand his interest in remaining associated with the core group of schools that he's been part of for 30+ years," ESPN said in a statement after Raftery's move was announced. "We wish him the absolute best in his next chapter and thank him for his incredible contributions to ESPN."
THE LIST: TWO TOP-5 PICKS, NO FINAL FOUR
Indiana entered a short list of programs on Thursday night: Schools who had two top-five draft picks but did not make the Final Four. A look at how schools who have had two top-five picks have fared over the past 40 years:
Wednesday, March 5 2014 8:53 AM EST2014-03-05 13:53:25 GMT
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