Cougar of the Week: Luca McCormick
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Luca McCormick (’19) of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. is the starting small forward and leading scorer on Clark Men’s Basketball, and vaulted the team over Worcester State and Newbury College with game-winning threes. He also dropped a barrage of threes in the second half of Tuesday’s game against Fitchburg State to help lead Clark to an 87-85 win. McCormick went to American Heritage Academy in Plantation, Fla. and transferred to IMG Academy, a sports-oriented boarding school, before his senior year.
Scarlet: You have made two game-winning shots this season. After pulling it off a second time, did you start to let it go to your head?
Luca: Oh no, not at all. I mean, my dad plays basketball, and he’s a big part of my love for the sport. And he had a pretty good coach, Kelvin Sampson, who coached him at Montana Tech. And he would always tell my dad, “Never get too high, never get too low. Just keep looking forward, stay balanced, and you’ll have great success in your life.” And every time I have a great game or a pretty bad game, I’ll tell myself that to keep me going in the right direction.
Scarlet: You are getting the ball in crucial situations more often than last year. Is this something you have discussed working on with Coach Phillips?
Luca: Yeah, I did talk to Coach before the season, and he told me that he trusted me to have the ball in my hands at the end of the game, as well as throughout the game, getting people involved, and playing defense. I think that defense is something I can really improve on.
Scarlet: I noticed at the end of the Connecticut College game, that Coach played you on offense only and Lamar [Berk (’17)] on defense only. What can you do to improve your defense?
Luca: I had never really done that rotation before; it was odd. But I can just improve my defending overall, and using my length to hang back instead of getting up in my opponent’s grill and having him blow past me. I feel like when I become more experienced – it’s still my sophomore year and I’m still considered young, but I’m learning – those substitutions won’t be necessary anymore because I’ll be solid on both ends of the floor, and I’ll be able to be less of a liability on the defensive end.
Scarlet: Connecticut College is obviously a tough team, and you played them close. What led to the disappointing result?
Luca: I feel like our team always plays hard, you can’t really question that. Many people in our league say, “Clark University is always that team that always sticks in there,” You can’t really push us away, so to speak. We’re going to clamp onto your ankle until the end. We were playing hard and running our offense well, but we weren’t hitting our shots.
Scarlet: It says on your Clark Athletics bio you went to IMG Academy. How did your experience there differ from that at other schools?
Luca: Yeah. I went for my senior year of high school and a postgrad year. The athletic side was definitely more intense than the places I had been in the past. And usually when we had our first game at my other schools, we’d just go across the street, but now we were going across the country. So, that just goes to show the competition we were playing, and the competition I was playing with. I had teammates like Dwayne Bacon, who’s a standout at Florida State, and Corey Sanders who’s at Rutgers, and TySean Powell who was at Duquesne and is at Pacific now. And also, a good friend of mine, Austin Pauga, is at Northern Illinois.
Scarlet: NBA Draftee Satnam Singh was also on that team, right?
Luca: Yeah, Satnam. He was a funny guy.
Scarlet: Interesting. Do you have any funny stories regarding him?
Luca: Hmmm…well, since Satnam was going into the NBA draft, they had a bunch of TV crews around him, and we were put together and walking around with Satnam and they were filming us. And it got to the point where it was funny because they put us at a table together in the cafeteria, and we were always cool, but just the fact that they forced us together made it kind of awkward. So, they were filming us, right? And we were just eating and the camera crew was like, “Should we ask some questions to get the whole thing going?’”
Scarlet: What did they ask?
Luca: They just asked, like, “What do you call Satnam?” And we were just like, “Satnam.” [Laughs]. I don’t know, it was kind of funny. But yeah, he was a pretty good player. Big. Just for no reason. Just a great guy overall. I miss him, I miss all those guys.
Scarlet: What was your role on IMG like given all of the top-tier talent on the team?
Luca: At IMG I was more of a shooter. I’d drive, shoot, and play defense. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I got to play a lot. I started. I’d let my teammates do their thing, and when I was open I’d shoot. But being that role player, I definitely got better. Sometimes they would just smoke me at practice, but I’d get better from it, because I’d just want to work harder.
Scarlet: What made you choose Clark?
Luca: I wasn’t really looking for something huge. I mean, obviously, I wanted to play at a Division I level, but I was nervous about my academics and how that would go. I took a tour at Clark, and had a pretty good tour guide. I liked the campus. At the time, it was spring and there was snow on the ground since it was the really bad winter two years ago, and that scared me. But I kind of got over it when people told me that usually doesn’t happen. The people on campus were very welcoming compared to other schools I went to, where it seemed forced. Here, it just felt natural. I also liked the faculty to student ratio, and plus I was told the student accessibility services do a good job, and that was something my mom and I were looking for. I do have some learning disabilities, so having that around was comforting. Just being able to relocate for exams or have extra time is huge.
Scarlet: How did you go about improving your basketball skills at Clark without being torched by professional-bound players like Dwayne Bacon and being driven to beat them?
Luca: It was very different. We did have Tyler Huffman (’16) last year, who was a really good scorer. But I wasn’t guarding him most of the time. I was guarding Lamar, or David [Mercier (’17)], or Corey Gomes (’16) at the time. But in terms of getting better, I obviously got better because it was the college level. So just by practicing with those guys … while they might not be Dwayne Bacon, they have the college experience and knowledge that Dwayne Bacon didn’t have. And that helped me out.
Scarlet: Having them must have been important for you when playing major minutes in conference games your first season here. How did you adjust to the pressure of the NEWMAC?
Luca: It’s really hard to say. You just adapt. Throughout the nonconference season, I guess you could say I adapted to the college level of play. Those games helped me figure out what my goal was, and once I got to those bigger conference games, I knew what I was doing from the start.
Scarlet: Do you feel more prepared for conference play this year in any way?
Luca: I definitely feel like the jitters aren’t going to be there like they were at times last year. I feel like I know what’s coming. Because all I really heard last year was a bunch of my teammates talking about how intense the conference play was. So, knowing what to expect is going to help me, and working to improve over the summer is going to play its role.
Thanks for the interview, Luca!