Editor’s note: One in a series profiling the 2012 Maine Sports Hall of Fame inductees.
CASCO, Maine — Matt Hancock is one of the most prolific scorers in NCAA Division III college basketball history, but the former Colby College star doesn’t measure his career by the 2,678 points he amassed while on the Waterville campus between 1987 and 1990.
“I never really defined myself as a scorer or a shooter,” said Hancock, who will be among eight new inductees into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame during ceremonies scheduled for noon Sunday at the Bangor Civic Center.
“It was all about winning. I really hated to lose.”
The 37th Maine Sports Hall of Fame class also includes Walt Abbott, Phillip Coulombe, Ed Guiski, Emily Ellis, Dennis Libbey, Howard Vandersea and Dana Wilson.
Hancock’s statistics regarding that ultimate bottom line were similarly impressive. After leading Lake Region High School to the 1985 Class B state championship, the 6-foot-1-inch guard went on to propel Colby to an 80-24 record over his four years with the Mules, a record that also included four appearances in the Eastern College Athletic Conference postseason tournament.
Hancock capped off his college career by leading coach Dick Whitmore’s club to a school-record 26 victories — against just one loss — and an ECAC title during his senior season in 1989-90, and the three-year team captain subsequently was named the NCAA Division III Player of the Year.
“There would have to have been some doubt from both my high school coach [Ken Whitney] and college coach looking at a guy who’s 6-1, not very fast, and athletically behind some of the better players around,” Hancock said.
“But I was fortunate to win a state championship in high school and be an ECAC champion, a three-time All-American and national player of the year in college. How does something like that happen? I think a lot of it came from just continuing to grind things out. I think of myself as one of the all-time greatest in terms of never giving in.”
Hancock considers that “grinder” label a badge of honor representing a work ethic that he combined with athletic talent and court sense to rank fifth all-time among NCAA Division III career scoring leaders while averaging 26.3 points per game throughout his Colby career.
“Matt is one of the great competitors of all time,” said Whitmore, who retired as Colby’s coach in 2011 after 40 seasons and a 637-341 record with the Mules. “His desire to win is off the charts. When you add his ability to get to his own shot anywhere from the 3-point arc to the low post and the ability to use screens better than anyone I’ve ever coached, you have a great player formula.”
That competitive nature and scoring ability often was revealed in areas more subtle than the launching of 3-pointers or the slamming of a dunk.
Hancock scored nearly one-third of his collegiate points from the free-throw line. He still holds NCAA Division III career records for free throws attempted (928) and made (792). Those numbers were good for a remarkable 85.3 shooting percentage from the line over four years, topped by a 91.5 percent effort during his sophomore season at Colby.
“Whether it’s free throws or anything else,” said Hancock, “you just have to keep working on to make small, incremental improvements in your performance because the things you work on you’re not going to improve exponentially overnight.”
Hancock, now 45, lives back in his hometown in the Sebago Lake region with wife Tracy and daughters Sarah — a freshman on this year’s Western Maine Class B champion Lake Region girls team — Cece and Shauna. He’s the owner of the Mt. Abram Ski Area in Greenwood as well as 10 real estate properties, three timber properties, sporting camps and other ventures.
“It’s an amazing honor,” he said of the Hall of Fame recognition, “but at the same time it feels a little awkward because while it’s a great recognition that you’re at the peak of your sport it’s not why we do what we do.
“For me it was just 15 years of intense training to get better and better at something I really loved doing.”