Cardinal's senior reflect on their time at Louisville before Senior Night

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by Michelle Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on March 7, 2014 at 8:00 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)-- It was a class that no one thought much of at the beginning, but after two Big East championships, two Final Fours and a National Championship, that's all changed.

“We are a bunch of winners; we do what it takes to win,” Russ Smith said.

Luke Hancock, Tim Henderson, Stephan van Treese and Smith are all saying farewell Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center. The post season still ahead, but their days as Cardinals are numbered.

“It's very unusual in this day in age to find four unique guys like this,” UofL Coach Rick Pitino said.

Hancock, the transfer from George Mason, had a rough start last season, but ended as the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

“My expectations were to win a National Championship and now it is to win two National Championships,” Hancock said.

Henderson, a walk-on from Christian Academy of Louisville, whose two huge three's against Wichita State in the Final Four made him a hometown hero.

"It's going to be tough, I'm not looking forward to it,” Henderson said. “I want to stay here as long as possible, these guys [have] become like brothers to be so it's definitely going to be a tough thing to go through.”

Van Treese has been the hustle player the Cards have needed, offering the help rarely seen in the box score. For him his time at UofL was surreal.

“Growing up watching all the tournaments, my team won the bracket,” van Treese said. “It's crazy to think about that.”

And Smith wants to be remembered by what he’s done while a Cardinal.

“If people could just say Russ was here, Russ went to a Final Four and he won a championship and mention the other things I've done, I would be satisfied,” Smith said.

Pitino talked about a conversation he had with Smith about Senior Night festivities.

“I said, ‘You're not going to cry are you?’ He said, ‘I may’ and he looked at me and he said, ‘I know you're going to cry when you see me out there,” Pitino said.

The senior from Brooklyn has surpassed expectations. His mother, Paulette O’Neal was in town on Friday, who said his success was no surprise to her, remember Smith in karate

“He just got there, but he was just very confident,” O’Neal said. “This was when we was yay high, so he put the boy on the floor, the best guy in the school and they just couldn't believe it.”

Many of Smith’s family members making their very first trip ever to the Yum! Center and they are excited to see the boy they call Russy play.

But the season isn't over.

“It's great that people remember us, but the stories not done yet,” Hancock said. “Hopefully we can make this one last a long time.”

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