Luke Hancock is fully aware of the outstanding basketball players who have come through Roanoke.
He doesn’t try to claim that he is one of them.
He’s just being humble.
That was the approach Hancock displayed as the guest speaker recently at the Shenandoah Club in downtown Roanoke.
Here was a guy who was named most outstanding player in the 2013 Final Four, where Louisville defeated Michigan 82-76 for the national championship.
The Cardinals trailed by 12 points in the first half before going on a 14-0 run. Hancock was 5-for-5 on 3-pointers and finished with 22 points after scoring 20 points in a 70-66 semifinal win over Wichita State.
“It’s surreal to come back,” said Hancock upon his speaking engagement in Roanoke. “I’m blessed to have played for some of the best coaches in the game — Hall of Famers like Rick Pitino, Jim Larranaga, Kevin Keatts — and all of you guys right here.”
Pitino was the head coach at Louisville on the Cardinals’ national championship team.
“I’ve got to give credit to great talent evaluators but, way back when, I had no idea what you were thinking. I was the worst player on the team at Hidden Valley Middle School in the seventh grade. That was pretty undeniable.
“I was the only player on the team who didn’t score a point the whole year.”
There was consideration of soccer as a better option.
“We were driving down the road one day — there was a gas station right there by the house — and I see a basketball goal laying on the ground,” he said. “The concrete was still on the bottom. I knew how crappy our goal was in our driveway. And I said, ‘Whatever the chores are, whatever the deal is, I’ll do it. I think it was $40. My mom went in and negotiated and I picked it up. It was heavy as heck. It was adjustable, it was broken and my dad worked forever to get it to 10 feet.”
After wrapping up his playing career at Hidden Valley High School and being named All-State, he didn’t attract any offers and elected to spend an extra year at Hargrave Military Academy, where he played on the postgraduate team.
Current N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts spent time at Hargrave as the postgrad coach.
“It’s a basketball factory,” said Hancock, who heard from the George Mason staff early on. “I had a great first day, talked to the [Mason] coaches and they said, “We’re going to tell coach [Jim Larranaga] what we think of you. You want you to be a big part of our team. We want you.’
“They went back and told coach ‘L’ and he came down the next time. And, of course, you know how this was going to go. It was the worst day I had my entire time at Hargrave. After about an hour and a half, [Maurice] Mo Creek, who was an Indiana commit, decided I just wasn’t going to score.
“I didn’t have a very good day and afterwards, I remember coach ‘L’ saying, ‘All my assistants loved you, but you just didn’t do very much.’ “
Nevertheless, Hancock wound up playing for Larranaga for two seasons at George Mason and in his second year, the team won the most games in program history, finishing 27-6 in 2010-11.
“Coach ‘L’ was so ahead of his time,” Hancock said in Roanoke. “He started every day, every season of practice with the same quote. It was by Stephen Covey, who said, ‘Begin with the end in mind.’
“A lot of coaches don’t do that. They don’t stop and step back. They try and go as hard as you can the whole time. He was so confident and prepared. And we were fortunate.”
Larranaga left for Miami after Hancock’s sophomore season and his former coach at Hargrave, Kevin Keatts, was named an assistant at Louisville where Hancock soon followed.
Hancock now spends most days as a financial advisor with Clearpath Financial in Louisville. He also is a co-host twice a week on ESPN Louisville. He has worked for the ACC Network since 2019 and was an analyst on the Nothing But Net program throughout the 2022-23 season.
But nobody knows more about Miami and its coach, Larranaga.
“I asked him at Miami, ‘What do you do to make those guys loose?” Hancock said. “And, I remember going out before an NCAA Tournament game and he was playing kick ball.
“Coach being able to step back and realize you’re playing a game was monumental for me and took all the stress away. ‘How did you prepare for the game?’ ‘I hit a home run in kick ball.’
“I’m fully bought in that he’s one of the best basketball coaches of all time.”