Hancock ends up the star for Cardinals

ATLANTA – Once the player that most University of Louisville fans bemoaned earlier this season, junior Luke Hancock ended the season as the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament. Hancock, a transfer from George Mason, led the Cardinals with 22 points in an 82-76 win over Michigan in the title game.

Luke Hancock started the season 4 of 29 from three-point range.

The University of Louisville sophomore transfer from George Mason ended the season being named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship and guided the Cardinals to a third national title.

"A little different than my start," Hancock said with a smile.

Hancock, who struggled early in the season and had many fans wondering if he could play at U of L much less be the team captain, ended the season with a shooting spree that hasn't been seen before in the NCAA title game.

U of L rallied from 12 points down in the first half to beat Michigan 82-76 for the national title. And it was Hancock who led the way, scoring 14 straight points – including 4 of 4 three-pointers – in one stretch late in the first half.

Hancock finished the game 5-for-5 from three-point range and finished with 22 points after scoring 20 in the semifinals against Wichita State. He became the first reserve to ever win the MOP award at the Final Four. He was also the first MOP to average under 10 points a game during the regular season since 1951.

"It's been a long road," Hancock said, holding the trophy. "There's just no way to describe it. I'm so excited it ended like this."

Hancock, who had a shoulder injury that he was trying to overcome early in the season, was not only the MOP but also appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated, noting the new-found success is "hard to believe."

It was all a big treat for Hancock, whose father Bill, was watching from the front row. Bill Hancock is gravely ill and hadn't been able to attend many games this season but was at the Final Four.

After putting on his show in the first half, Hancock left the court with a wink and a wave to his father It didn't take him long to find Bill Hancock after the game and give him a big huge as the emotions flow.

"It doesn't get any better than this," Hancock said.

U of L walk-on Tim Henderson was asked about Hancock's big game and he said it "was like it was meant to be," because of his father.

Hancock was such a key player late in the season.

After hurting his shoulder in a pickup game last April, Hancock struggled early on. He was 2 of 9 in the opener and 1 of 10 in the second game of the season after Pitino called him the best offensive player on the team in the preseason.

But Hancock didn't get down.

"With Luke it was just a matter of getting over his injury," Pitino said. "His toughness is beyond the norm. He had the worst shoulder injury (trainer) Fred Hina said he has ever seen. He shouldn't be playing now.

"He's the toughest kid I've seen."

Hancock said recently it wasn't until late February that he started to feel good and "I won't be 100 percent this year, no way."

But he was good enough.

Hancock was 8 of 10 from three-point range in the Final Four and made 11 of 19 three's during the six-game NCAA Tournament run. Hancock was 28 of 49 from three-point range since the Seton Hall game in late February.

"We just wait and Luke make big plays," U of L guard Russ Smith.

Added Stephan Van Treese: "He just makes so many big shots."

Hancock said when he walked into the locker room that he wasn't going to let the trophy go, telling a reporter "take as many pictures as you want."

Hancock has so many good memories and his father was there to see it, making it "just that much more special."

After the game, Hancock went onto the ladder to cut down a piece of the net. He looked at several teammates and said, "This string goes to dad."

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