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How Louisville’s Hancock celebrated
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On April 9, 2013 @ 8:00 am In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA — The unlikeliest Most Outstanding Player in Final Four history snakes his way around boisterous, delirious men, women and children inside the JW Marriott ballroom early Tuesday morning, stopping exactly 36 times to pose for pictures or sign autographs.
“Damn,” sighs an exasperated Luke Hancock, wearing a crooked national title hat and admittedly overwhelmed by newfound fame that the 23-year-old won’t shake the rest of his life. Hours after becoming the first non-starter in NCAA history to win the MOP award, he puts his arm around a USA TODAY Sports reporter, urging him and girlfriend Kaycee Loucka to follow the Louisville junior through a sea of fans celebrating their first national title since 1986.
This fan base was starved for a national title for two reasons: It had been 27 years since the school won one and just one year since that other school from Lexington, Ky., cut down the nets.
“You saved us! You saved the whole season!” a middle-aged woman with a cardinal painted on her cheek bellows.
Coach Rick Pitino, the first coach in NCAA history to lead two different schools to national titles, has coached more talented teams. He successfully managed egos while stewarding the 1996 Kentucky national championship team, one of the most dominant teams in the modern era. Leading this team required a deft touch to bring the players even closer together following the gruesome injury suffered by Kevin Ware in the Elite Eight victory against Duke.
Two hours after the basket was lowered so Ware could clip a strand from the net inside the Georgia Dome, the guard stands on crutches near the hotel elevator, head down with a net around his neck.
“I promised I would not cry tonight,” Ware says. “I did cry.”
Ware says he was spent emotionally and deeply touched by how his team sought to deliver the Atlanta area resident a national championship. He likes to say that this group is so close that they all “came out of the womb together.”
Ware heads to his hotel room a few moments after Pitino, sounding as if he was losing his voice faster than Michigan … [For more on How Louisville hero Luke Hancock celebrated his title night, click here.]
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