Staff Writer

Matt Hancock had a pretty good idea what to expect from opponents when he arrived at Colby College in the fall of 1986.

A year removed from leading Lake Region High School to the Class B state basketball championship, Hancock had a year of prep school at Exeter under his belt. More importantly, he had played hundreds of pickup games with adults and former college players at the old Casco High School gym near his home.

“I learned more through pickup games than anywhere else,” Hancock said.

Colby College coach Dick Whitmore knew he was getting a blue-chip player in Hancock, who with his brother Kevin, had attended Whitmore’s Pine Tree Basketball camps in Waterville through junior high and high school. Still, there was lingering doubt in Hancock’s mind.

“I remember leaving Exeter and working harder than I worked my entire life in making the team at Colby,” Hancock said. “I never took my success in high school for granted.”

Hancock started for Colby for four years and was a three-time All-America selection. He left as the team’s all-time leading scorer, a record that still stands. Sunday, Whitmore will be the master of ceremonies at the Maine Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony and have the pleasure of introducing Hancock among seven other inductees. The two have a relationship that blossomed at Colby and they remain close.

“He came from a great family,” Whitmore said. “He was just a very confident player right from the beginning. He was so talented he challenged your coaching all the time.”

Hancock holds the NCAA Division III record for most free throws attempted (833) and made (762) in a career, a percentage of .915. His senior year he was voted National Division III Player of the Year. Colby has since retired his No. 24 jersey.

At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Hancock was tough to defend.

“He was too big for guards to handle and too quick for forwards,” Whitmore said. “He could hit 3s or take it to the basket and draw fouls.”

Whitmore recalled a couple of Hancock’s game that stood out over his career, beginning with a a 44-point performance at Amherst his sophomore year during the ECAC final.

“He put on an offensive clinic in that game that was remarkable,” Whitmore said.

Hancock scored a career-high 49 points his senior year against the University of Southern Maine and still appreciates the offensive freedom he was afforded by Whitmore.

“Not a lot of coaches have enough confidence in who they are to give (players) enough freedom to do that,” he said. “I think it’s rare and unique in a climate where coaches love to hear themselves talk. How often does that really happen? I’ve carried those lessons through my whole life.”

Hancock coached the Lake Region High girls team for six years until his daughters grew older enough that he began coaching them at the youth and AAU level. He estimates he’s been coaching girls basketball for 15 years. Sarah, the oldest of his three daughters played on the Lake Region varsity team as a freshman last winter and helped the Lakers to the Western Maine Class B championship.

“I love taking the lessons I learned from my coaches and applying them to the kids I coach now,” Hancock said. “I love breaking down the fundamentals to their purest form.”

Hancock was involved in the family business, Hancock Lumber, for several years before branching off into real estate investments. Among them, he owns Mt. Abram ski area. He was an all-state football and baseball player at Lake Region, but basketball remains closest to his heart.

“The thing about basketball that is so awesome is you can work on the entire game by yourself,” he said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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