Hager keeps “no fear” attitude heading into first season

Matt Stone | Staff Writer

A key factor to the success of the UNC Wilmington men’s basketball team this year will be the ability of the team’s redshirt freshmen to perform on the Division I stage. 

Arguably the most hyped redshirt is forward Luke Hager, a former standout at high school powerhouse Whitney Young in Chicago, Illinois.


The Seahawk Sports was able to catch up with the 6’8″ wingman to talk about his outlook on his first collegiate season.

TS: After playing at a big Midwest school like Whitney Young, what made you want to come down south to UNCW?

LH: Kind of a little bit of everything. The coaches were a really big part of it. They really made it feel like it was a family environment. Obviously the location is really nice, you can’t go wrong with the beach (laughs). I wanted to get out of the Midwest because I grew up in the Michigan and Chicago area, and I was ready for a change to somewhere warmer. Also, my mom is originally from Winston Salem and she got to move back down here and be with her family again, and it’s nice because now they can now come to games whenever they want.

TS: What other schools were recruiting you and what other ones were you really interested in?

LH: A few Midwest schools like TCU, Central Michigan, Bradley, and Northern Illinois were recruiting me but like I said I wanted to move out of there. I had some bigger schools looking at me, and I didn’t get that big offer that I wanted so I figured I’d really look into all my options. Nothing really fell into place with the bigger schools and I try to keep the mentality that everything happens for a reason and I

Didn’t get down or discouraged or anything and UNCW worked out for me.

TS: What’s your favorite thing been so far about attending UNCW?

LH: Probably the environment. I like how you can go from class to the beach, and then when it gets dark you can come in the gym and hoop. It’s got a little bit of everything here. Also, the people are really nice; Southern Hospitality is a really cool thing. People are nice in the Midwest, but I feel like people down here in the South really go that extra step to make you feel comfortable and wanted. Living in Chicago was a lot faster paced than the relaxed beach life here.

TS: What do you miss most about living in Chicago?

LH: Probably the environment. Chicago’s a really cool city. You could see the skyline from my high school and it’s really cool seeing all of the high rises. In the summer, it’s a really cool place to be because a lot of tourists visit and there’s always a lot of stuff to do. It was fun and I do miss it a lot.

TS: How hard was it to watch from the sidelines last year?

LH: Oh it was terrible. It was so bad (laughs). But looking back on it I think in the long run it was a good decision because I got the chance sit out and learn a bit to better my game. I got to strengthen my body a lot and got in the weight room and gained twenty something pounds, which has helped a lot. It’s kind of funny because now I know everything that’s going on in practice and I’m technically still a freshman and I haven’t even played a game yet. It was a good decision but it was really hard sitting on the sideline. It’s like you just graduated high school and you have all these high expectations for yourself and you want to contribute right away, but you can’t do anything. But, looking back it was definitely a good decision for me.

TS: Was there a certain moment in your life when you realized you could play Division 1 college basketball?

LH: I mean I was always a lot bigger and taller than everyone, so I was playing well when I was young. But it never really crossed my mind until I got to high school. I was dominating JV teams, it wasn’t even fun anymore (laughs). But when I started playing varsity I started getting letters and coaches starting calling me. While playing at Whitney Young, we always had a lot of coaches coming in and out and my coach would come up to me and be like, ‘Hey this coach was asking about you,’ stuff like that. So probably, my freshman or sophomore year I realized I needed to get my head on straight and really focus on basketball, so I can compete at the next level.


TS: How has your role as a player changed from high school to college?

LH: The thing is, when you get to the college level, everybody’s good. You know what you can contribute to the team, and that’s what you have to do. But yeah everyone was one of the top players at their high school, that’s why their playing college basketball. You have to keep the mentality that your better than the other person, and I try to keep that no fear attitude. If you are fearful of someone else or like their better than you, then they automatically get the upper hand on you. You have to have the killer and instinct and just want to get out there and dominant the other team.

TS: What do you think you can contribute to the team this year?

LH: I think I can contribute a little bit of everything. With my frame and my build I think I can play good defense, rebound, and I can slash to the basket. I’ve really been working on my outside jump shot because I can’t just get to the basket every play, you have to be a threat from outside. But, I just want our team to have a good record and have something we can hang our hats on and be proud of. I don’t really think too individually, I want to think involving the team. It’s not 1 on 5 it’s 5 on 5, it’s not like we’re playing golf or tennis (laughs).

TS: What are your three biggest strengths in your game?

LH: Probably getting to the basket, my athletic ability, and my size. I’m 6’8 and 210 pounds, and that really helps me inside the paint and posting up smaller defenders and playing defense.

TS: How has Coach Peterson and the rest of the coaches helped you adjust to the college game?

LH: Coach Peterson has helped me a lot; he definitely knows a lot and has worked with the best with coaches like Dean Smith. He’s a great teacher and has a lot of knowledge. We have a great sports staff that really points you in the right direction to succeed.

TS: When your not playing basketball, what are some of the things you like to do?

LH: I’m a big time Xbox player and I love Halo (laughs). Back home my brother and I used to play paintball a lot. Also, when it’s warm I love to go chill on the beach, but that’s kind of what everyone does around here (laughs).

TS: What’s your intended major, and did you always know you wanted to do something along those lines?

LH: Right now it’s business finance, and I’ve always known that I wanted to do something in the business world but I didn’t know what specific thing I wanted to do. Finance attracted me with all the stocks and bonds and that type of thing.

TS: Where do you see yourself in five years?

LH: I don’t know man, that’s crazy. (Laughs). Hard to think about where I’d be a year from now. But five years from now, I’ll hopefully be able to look back on my career here at UNCW and say I was successful and have no regrets. I’ll hopefully be playing somewhere else. Obviously you play basketball to try to make it to the league (laughs). But it’d be cool to play overseas in a pretty cool country. But, the air’s going to come out of the ball eventually, and if basketball’s over I’ll be just as happy cause I’ll always have the game to go back and play whenever.