Last year’s senior night of Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng and Mike Marra was a hard one for me. Of course little did I know Mr. Siva and Mr. Dieng would lead the Louisville Cardinals to National Championship. Siva and Gorgui had unbelievable storybook careers at Louisville and the way they handled themselves off the court was something even Rick Pitino hadn’t seen in a long time.
This year’s senior night I maybe even more of an emotional wreck. These four players (Russ Smith, Tim Henderson, Stephen Van Treese and Luke Hancock) will go down as the one of the best senior classes of all-time for UofL. Not necessarily because of their talent, but because of what they have achieved. Two straight Final Fours, a National Championship and a couple of conference championships.
So let’s take a moment before Saturday’s game against UConn to remember, reflect and if your want to cry. (No one is watching, you can cry)
Russ “Russdiculous” Smith
The 6’0″ Brooklyn native almost didn’t make it all four years. In fact he almost joined former UofL assistant Steve Masiello at Manhattan. Man am I glad he stayed. As Rick Pitino said very often this season, “With out Russ Smith there would be no National Championship.”
Smith amused us with his humor, he gave us heart attacks with his shots and gave us joy with his ability to help the Cards win. He also made Pitino a much more mellow coach.
“I think I will miss (Russ Smith) more than any other basketball player that I’ve ever coached because I’ve had so many laughs” – Pitino
— Kendrick HaskinsWave (@KendrickHaskins) March 7, 2014
Smith goes into Saturday’s game as Louisville’s 8th all-time scorers with 1,776 points. He is also fourth in total free throws made, second in most career steals and ninth in most career three pointers. With the amount of big games he has been apart of Smith will have his number hanging in the rafters of the KFC Yum! Center. Just like Rick Pitino predicted right?
Russ is a scorer, but hard to forget about how good he is at stealing the ball. The Siva/Smith combo in 2012-13 was unstoppable and one of the main reasons Louisville was able to make such an incredible run last year. He has stepped into his leadership role this season and will be the key if Louisville wants to have a chance to make it to a third straight Final Four.
There are many more, but we must move on.
Stephen Van Treese aka Mr. Hustle or Van Beast
He also almost transferred. He was granted his release in the summer of 2012, but after he didn’t find a home where he was gonna see minutes Pitino allowed him to return. Stephen had some injury issues in his career, but he worked hard and became a really important part of this year’s team.
Out of all the seniors Van Treese was probably the most highly touted player coming out of high school, which says a lot.
Tim”Wichita” Henderson aka Hendo
Tim Henderson came to Louisville as a walk-on from Christian Academy. Pitino gave him a scholarship for his senior year because of his effort and attitude.
Hendo is forever embedded into the Louisville history books for making back-to-back threes against Wichita State in last year’s Final Four. Louisville was down 12 in the first-half when Pitino gave Russ a breather. With no Kevin Ware, Henderson was the next option. Henderson drained two threes in 42 seconds. The rest is history.
To get more of a glimpse of this now Louisville Legend check out this article by Rick Bozich after the Final Four win.
Luke Hancock aka Luuuuuuke!
Luke Hancock came to Louisville via George Mason in 2011. Not much was known about the 6’6″ wing from Roanoke except for his game winning three against Villanova, but Rick Pitino was super excited about having him.
After he sat out for the 2011-12 season fans finally got to see him play last season. The beginning was a little rocky, to give him credit he did have a pretty bad shoulder injury. As his healing continued his play got a lot better and fans got to see what Pitino had been saying for a year and a half.
I will forever be known as one of the people Hancock pointed out for blasting him earlier in the year via his Instegram account. I think I tweeted something during a game about his basketball IQ. I of course was humbled and hope he forgives me. I was proven wrong and have learned to not tweet my thoughts during a game ever again. So thanks for that Luke.
Hancock was named a team captain before even stepping on the court last season. He showed why after Kevin Ware’s horrifying leg injury. While the rest of the team was emotionally a wreck, Hancock knelt next to Ware and prayed with him. That takes a special person, a leader.
Hancock was later named MVP of the Final Four, as he scored 20 against Wichita State and then 22 points in the National Championship game against Michigan. Those two games alone gave Hancock his own legacy at Louisville. He may not have had a long career here like Russ, but he was apart of some of the most exciting games in Louisville history.
How lucky are we that he transferred, makes Pitino look like more of a genius right?
Oh the memories. What a group!
Thanks for the memories.
Since it will most likely Montrezl Harrell’s last game in the KFC Yum! Center, I leave you with this.
Comment your thoughts below.