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The Secret of Luke's Success

Feb. 21, 2002

By Simit Shah – Talk to an athlete about their diet and you’re sure to hear terms like protein, carbohydrates and calorie intake. What you don’t expect to hear is sugary doughnuts, at least from any athlete this side of Refrigerator Perry, but you can probably make an exception for Luke Schenscher.

The 7-foot Australian center’s weight has faced Oprah-like scrutiny in the few short months he’s been on campus. Schenscher arrived at Tech at a rail-thin 215 pounds, but he’s tipping the scales at around 240 these days.

The athletic department’s nutrition staff has crammed in plenty of so-called “smart” calories into Schenscher’s diet, but the Aussie freshman has supplemented it with his favorite stateside treat.

“I don’t know if coach wants to hear this, but I’ve discovered Krispy Kreme doughnuts,” he said. “I’ve got a liking for them. That’s something we don’t have in Australia.”

Weighty issues aside, Schenscher has blossomed during his first season on the Flats. He was an afterthought to Paul Hewitt’s second recruiting class, signing after a scholarship offer to another high school player was rescinded.

Though a relative newcomer to the game of basketball, Schenscher was a member of Australia’s national team, as well as the under-22 team, while still in high school. Hewitt learned of Schenscher through a coaching contact and began to pursue him.

So what did Schenscher know about a school halfway around the world?

“I had heard about Georgia Tech before, but I really didn’t know much about the basketball program,” he said. “All I knew was that it was in the ACC, so that was huge.”

Schenscher had seen plenty of Duke and North Carolina on ESPN, so he was familiar with the conference. As a member of the under-22 team, he played in tournaments against American collegians and got a feel for the level of play.

He was determined to play college basketball in the U.S., and Hewitt was the perfect coach.

“I always pictured American coaches as uptight guys you couldn’t talk to, but Coach Hewitt and his staff are very down to earth,” Schenscher said. “That means that a lot to me that I can go to his office and talk about anything, basketball or otherwise.”

Being an Australian center has evoked the inevitable comparisons to fellow countryman Luc Longley, whose NBA career included a stint as the center of the Chicago Bulls during their championship run.

“I see my game as different from his,” said Schenscher, who met Longley during the Sydney Olympics.

Instead, Schenscher modeled his game after a more potent center.

“My coach at AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) showed me a lot of tapes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I started developing my hook shot from that.”

While his offensive skill is superior to his defensive prowess, Schenscher has shown steady improvement on both ends of the floor since the start of the season. He credits his individual sessions with assistant coach Willie Reese for much of his advancement.

Coach Hewitt also cites Schenscher’s attitude as a key to his progression.

“He’s got a tremendous work ethic,” Hewitt said. “That’s a cliche you hear a lot about players, but if you talk to anyone on campus from the academic advisor to the nutritionist to the strength coach, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more dedicated, hard-working student-athlete on our campus.”

At the end of November, Schenscher broke his foot, which could have potentially derailed his development. However, the time off was actually beneficial, according to both Hewitt and Schenscher.

“He came back a smarter player, but he also came back a rested player,” said Hewitt. “He had been playing almost 12 straight months without a break. Having that time off gave him a chance to rest his body and mind. He’s come back a better player.”

“The best thing about sitting out was seeing the ACC play and knowing what to expect when I came back,” added Schenscher. “I was itching to get back in. I felt stronger, and I had an idea of what I needed to do out there.”

When Schenscher did return nearly two months later, he was one of the catalysts that ignited a three-game ACC winning streak. His defensive presence gives his teammates the freedom to take some chances, and his rebounding and low post offense has shored up the team’s weaknesses.

“I envision him being one of the best centers in the ACC, certainly one of the best offensive centers,” predicted Hewitt. “As he gets stronger and bigger, he’ll be one of the better defensive centers too.”

When told of Schenscher’s newfound appetite for Krispy Kreme, Hewitt was ecstatic.

“You know what, I’ll make that a staple at the pre-game and post-game meals,” he said laughing. “He can eat all the Krispy Kreme he wants.”

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