LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville basketball team's trip to Washington D.C. this week will be more than its much-anticipated chance to meet the president (and to ask him why he picked against them in the NCAA Tournament, if the word of most is to be believed.)
It's also going to be a homecoming, at last, for Luke Hancock.
When the fifth-year senior-to-be met with media last week after returning from his trip to the World University Games in Russia, he couldn't put any kind of happy spin on the ordeal of being away from home during the death of his father, even though he spent a month at home with his dad before leaving, and he and his father had agreed that's what he should do.
"It's been a very difficult time, to be away like that," Hancock said. "To only be able to make phone calls and not be there, it's kind of rough."
Hancock wanted to try to get out of going, but his parents wouldn't let him. His mother, Van Hancock, said Luke knew he was seeing his father for the last time when he left Virginia for his World University Games tryouts.
"We wanted him to go," the player's mother told The Roanoke (Va.) Times late last month. "He tried [in June] to get out of going, and we told him, 'Absolutely not.'
"He knows his dad wanted him desperately to go. I think he held on, waiting until Luke got on his way."
A memorial service is planned for next week, when Hancock returns home.
PITINO ADDS TO HARDWARE, WINS AN ESPY
The 'Book is on record as not caring much what happens with the ESPYs. It's an award created by a cable TV network. The role of the ESPYs is questionable, at best. But when the local people win, we make note of it.
And Rick Pitino won a big one last week. He wasn't in Los Angeles to accept his award, but to be honored for the best performance of the sports season as a coach or manager, across all levels of all sports, is pretty cool.
"What a great choice," ESPN's Skip Bayless said. "Is that not a brilliant coaching job by a team that wasn't loaded with high NBA draft picks."
HANCOCK, HARRELL, DON'T CARE ABOUT NO. 1 RANKING
When asked if his team should be ranked No. 1 heading into next season, Hancock told the media Friday, "I don't know. I don't care. We're going to be pretty solid, but it doesn't matter. . . . You just want to be there at the end."
Harrell said, "There's 15 teams can be No. 1. Who is there at the beginning of the season, it doesn't matter."
CALIPARI MAXIMIZES BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT FOR RECRUITING
In addition to getting word out that his newest book: "Players First: Success From the Inside-Out," will hit store shelves next spring, John Calipari embedded a recruiting message in the release.
The excerpt of the book, to be co-written by New York Times magazine writer Michael Sokolove, included a not-so-subtle recruiting message.
"I coach for the names on the back of the jersey—not the front," Calipari writes. "My players. They're sent to me by their fathers, their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts—whoever in this world raised them and loves them. Others look at their NBA bodies and consider them lucky. Future millionaires, just stopping through before they cash in. That's not what I see. They're kids, some of them as young as seventeen. They all need me in a different way. Some want my affection, others my approval. It's a burden to be responsible for other people's children, sometimes a heavy burden."
CAL SENDS PARTING MESSAGE TO WILTJER
Kyle Wiltjer, as expected, has decided to transfer to Gonzaga, according to reports released last week. Calipari, who hoped to change the junior's mind about leaving, nonetheless wished him well.
Via Twitter, the coach said, "I'm saddened that (Wiltjer) is leaving the program, but if he thinks it's in his best interest to go somewhere else, I support his decision. Here is what I sent Kyle after he told me of his final decision: 'All's good. Mrs. Cal & I are sad and disappointed but accept your decision. Thank you for helping us win a national title and working so hard for me the last two years. Go prove me right! You can play!! I will be here for you if you need me. Love you kid.' (Wiltjer) will always be a part of the BBN."
ROBERTS' ESPY SPEECH WORTH REMEMBERING
Robin Roberts of Good Morning America (and formerly of ESPN) received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at last week's ESPY program. Roberts, a standout basketball player from Southeastern Louisiana University, has overcome breast cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant because of myelodysplastic syndrome in 2012. Her emotional remarks stole the show, and may be seen here.
She concluded her remarks with a poignant reminder: "I remember when Jim Valvano was the first recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. I was standing backstage, I was backstage as the next presenter after Jimmy V, when he accepted the honor with an inspiring speech that touched us all and still does. That night, in establishing the V Foundation for Cancer Research, Jim said we need your help, I need your help. We need money for research. It may not save my life, it may save my children's, it may save someone you love. I've been blessed to achieve things in life I never imagined as a young girl in Mississippi. But most of all, I never imagined that I'd be able to stand here 20 years after Jimmy V's speech and say that because of everyone who has responded to his challenge, because of all the research and support, mine has been one of the lives that has been saved."
NORTH CAROLINA ACADEMIC SCANDAL KEEPS GROWING WIDER
An academic scandal over bogus classes and grades in its African and Afro-American studies department now is catching a key University of North Carolina faculty member.
A report by the Raleigh News & Observer Sunday morning shows that Jan Boxill, chair of the Faculty Council, sent three faculty members an email the morning a report was due to the NCAA the resulted in a change in wording.
"The worry is that this could further raise NCAA issues and that is not the intention," Boxill wrote in the email.
The change involved naming a department individual, and her close ties to athletics. Those were removed from the final version submitted to the NCAA.
"It seems consistent with what I have taken to be the university's strategy all along, which is they wanted to come up with findings that seemed frank and candid, but which also carefully exclude any further NCAA investigation," UNC history professor Jay Smith told the News & Observer.
A trip to the national championship game has meant money in the bank for Michigan coach John Beilein, who last week signed an extension at Michigan that keeps him under contract through 2019 and gives him an immediate salary bump from $1.8 million to $2.45 million.
"John Beilein is receiving a significant increase in his compensation based on his performance," Brandon said in a video posted on mgoblue.com. "Performance is not Final Four appearances, it's not just competing for Big Ten championships. It's equally as important that he's recruiting the right kind of kids and doing a great job in the classroom. . . . This is a big stage, our expectations are very high and we shouldn't have those high expectations if we're not willing to pay our coaches competitively and fairly. And that's exactly what we're doing with John Beilein."
Beilein, 60, said he's "very excited" to continue his work at Michigan.
In its quest to rank everything, well, in the world, Bleacher Report last week took a stab at ranking the ten best defensive teams in college basketball history. Both Kentucky and Indiana are represented, with the Wildcats one of only three programs to have two entries. Take a look: