February 21, 2012

Steve Hancock to Retire as Women's Basketball Head Coach but Remain as Asst.; Jennifer Leedham to be Promoted to Head Post

Hancock will go down as one of the finest head coaches in school history; one of the finest student-athletes in school history, Leedham will now move on to her head coaching duties

RINDGE, N.H. (February 21, 2012) -- Franklin Pierce University Vice President/Director of Athletics Bruce Kirsh announced on Tuesday that women's basketball head coach Steve Hancock will retire from those duties at the end of the season, and Jennifer Leedham, the team's current assistant coach, will be promoted to the head post. Hancock will remain part of the program as he will stay on as an assistant coach. The announcement was made prior to the Ravens regular season finale versus Merrimack in The Fieldhouse.

"Three years ago Steve Hancock, Jennifer Leedham and myself charted this course of action for the women's basketball program," Kirsh said. "The success the program has achieved with this coaching tandem has been nothing short of remarkable. Coach Hancock has done an outstanding job of guiding the program while providing valuable mentoring to coach Leedham. I think Coach Leedham is a rising star in this profession and I look forward to watching the program grow under her leadership in the future."

The staff of Hancock and Leedham was put in place following the conclusion of the 2008-09 season. During their first campaign together in 2009-10, Hancock and Leedham guided Franklin Pierce to a 32-2 overall record, a No. 1 national ranking, the Northeast-10 Conference regular season and tournament championships, an NCAA East Regional title and a trip to the Division II Final Four. The staff's best coaching job, however, may have come the following season in 2010-11. Faced with the loss of three major contributors, no seniors and a backcourt comprised of three true freshmen, Hancock and Leedham guided Franklin Pierce to a 24-8 overall record, a top-10 national ranking at one point during the year, a second-place finish in the NE-10 regular season and a trip to the conference championship game. The Ravens were rewarded with a trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament, the program's fourth-straight appearance on the national stage. Franklin Pierce has gone 17-8 this season, and again, thrust itself into the conversation for another bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Several players have earned major accolades under the guidance of Hancock and Leedham, including former standout Johannah Leedham, who became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division II history with 3,050 points. She was named the WBCA/State Farm Division II Player of the Year in 2009, while also picking up the same honor from the Northeast-10. Following her senior season, Johannah was drafted by the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Draft. In 2011, Jewel White (Worcester, Mass.) was named the Northeast-10 Conference and Daktronics East Region Player of the Year, while Marielle Giroud (Martigny, Switzerland) garnered the NE-10 Defensive Player-of-the-Year award.

The program has also experienced success in the classroom. In July of 2011, Franklin Pierce was honored by the WBCA with a No. 11 national ranking in the WBCA Division II Academic Top-25 Poll. Franklin Pierce, which was the only school in the Northeast-10 Conference to appear in the rankings, earned a team GPA of 3.524 during the 2010-11 year. Franklin Pierce was one of just 39 schools across all levels of college basketball last season (Divisions I, II, III, NAIA, Junior/Community College) to earn a team GPA of 3.5 or better.

Hancock will long be remembered as one of the finest head coaches in Franklin Pierce Athletics history. He has compiled a career record of 208-112 over 11 seasons -- covering two head coaching stints -- for a 65 percent winning percentage. His 208 victories are the most in program history.

Hancock's first head coaching stint in Rindge came from 1988-96, as he transitioned the program from NAIA into NCAA Division II while compiling a 135-92 record, three NCAA Tournament berths (1992, 1993, 1994) and two New England Collegiate Conference championships (1992, 1994). He was named the NECC Coach of the Year following each season when his team was crowned league champions. Hancock guided the Ravens to a 20-7 record during the 1995-96 season and afterwards stepped down from the post to continue his career as a teacher and administrator in the Gardner (Mass.) School System. 

Hancock retired from Gardner in the summer of 2006 after 35 years of service to the school system. He returned to Rindge that fall as an assistant coach on Mark Swasey's staff and served in that capacity for three seasons. Hancock helped guide Franklin Pierce to a pair of NCAA East Region titles and a trip to the Division II national championship game in 2009, which was seen live throughout the nation on ESPN2. Following Swasey's departure, Hancock was promoted to head coach and helped guide the program to the success listed above. He was named the 2010 NE-10 Coach of the Year after guiding the Ravens to the league crown.

"I want to thank Bruce Kirsh for giving me the opportunity to serve as a head coach at Franklin Pierce, not once, but twice," Hancock said. "I have enjoyed my time in this role and worked with a lot of tremendous student-athletes and staff members. We were able to celebrate a lot of great achievements and I'm fortunate to have been a part of those great events."

Jennifer Leedham is widely regarded as one of the finest student-athletes and competitors in the history of Franklin Pierce Athletics. She starred as the point guard for the women's basketball team from 2005-09, scored over 1,000 career points and was the floor general for several teams which reached unparalleled heights in program history. 

As a true freshman in 2005-06, Leedham was a member of a Ravens team which captured the ECAC Division II Championship with a thrilling 61-60 win over top-seeded Philadelphia. As a sophomore in 2006-07, she started all 28 games and led the team with 117 assists, while ranking second on the squad with a 12.8 points per game average.

Leedham and the Ravens exploded during her final two seasons as they captured back-to-back NCAA East Regional championships. As a junior and co-captain in 2008, Leedham earned All-NE-10 Third-Team honors and guided the Ravens to the Eastern title and a trip to the Division II Elite Eight.

Franklin Pierce made a name for itself on the national scene in Leedham's senior season of 2008-09. She was the point guard on a Ravens team which captured the Northeast-10 Championship (the first NE-10 title in program history) and won its second-consecutive East Region title. Franklin Pierce advanced to the Elite Eight in San Antonio, Texas, where the Ravens dispatched of California (Pa.) in quarterfinals, 88-73, thanks in part to Leedham's 16 points and eight assists. In the Final Four versus Delta State, Leedham had a solid game of nine points and five steals to help lead the Ravens to a 58-39 victory and the school's first appearance in the national championship game, which would come two nights later on March 27.

In front of national television cameras on ESPN2, Leedham saved her best collegiate performance for her final game as she netted a season-high 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting (5-of-7 from three-point range), dished out nine assists, swiped four steals and blocked two shots in a full 40 minutes as the Ravens fought valiantly in a tough 103-94 loss to Minnesota State-Mankato. She earned NCAA All-Tournament team honors for her impressive performance at the national finals.

Following the season Leedham was honored with several other awards including the 2009 Walter Peterson Female Senior Student-Athlete-of-the Year award, the NE-10 Defensive Player-of-the-Year award and All-NE-10 Second-Team honors.

Leedham graduated from Franklin Pierce in May of 2009 with a bachelor's degree in sports and recreation management. She chose to enter into the coaching profession following graduation and has been instrumental in Franklin Pierce's success each of the past three seasons as an assistant. Leedham will also be earning her master's degree in leadership this spring from Franklin Pierce.

"I'm very excited to begin this new chapter in my career," she said. "I have a lot of respect and appreciation for Franklin Pierce and the women's basketball program, and I'm looking forward to building on the success we have achieved over the past several seasons. I want to thank Bruce Kirsh and Steve Hancock for working with me as a player and coach. Those two men have a lot of experience and they've been kind enough to share that with me as I continue to grow in this profession."

For more information on Franklin Pierce women's basketball, please visit the team's page at athletics.franklinpierce.edu(.) To follow the program even further, please visit Franklin Pierce Athletics on YouTube (www.youtube.com/FranklinPierceSports), Twitter (www.twitter.com/FPUathletics) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/FranklinPierceAthletics).

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