The first of Mike White’s recruits to sign on to Florida’s 2018 class, guard Noah Locke kickstarted what has turned into an exciting group of players coming to Gainesville next season. The 66th highest rated player in the class, he is certain to be a difference maker as soon as he sets foot on campus. Before getting ready for big game tonight, Locke joined me for a conversation about how his current season is going and what lead him to commit to Florida. Florida fans are often used to local recruits, and with Locke living in the northeast I thought this would be a great chance for Gators fans to get to know him better. As he plays his basketball in Maryland, I consulted one of the most knowledgeable high school basketball minds in the state to let Florida fans what they can expect from Locke. Colby Giacubeno (Twitter: @ColbyGHoops) writes at Prep Hoops: Maryland (www.prephoops.com/maryland) and knows Maryland high school basketball more than anyone and had this to say when I asked him about Locke:
“Locke is regarded as one of the top shooters in the country. He’s the best pure shooter I’ve seen in the past couple of years, but since the end of his junior season he’s improved exponentially. He was the primary option for Team Melo and as a result, his recruitment exploded. Coming into this season for McDonogh High School, he was expected to carry almost the entire load offensively. Every game he sees continuous double teams or triple teams to get the ball out of his hands, but he hasn’t let that stop him from putting up crooked numbers in the scoring column. Locke stays in the shooting ready position as he wanders around the perimeter without the ball waiting for a window to open. If the defender isn’t within a foot or two near him, Locke is getting his shot off cleanly and the result is more than likely a make. Where he’s improved the most is his game off the dribble. Operating in pick-and-roll scenarios or just taking his man in isolation situations, Locke has expanded his repertoire and sharpened his handles. He’s known for being a shooter, but there’s no reason to be surprised when he attacks the rim to see him finish a strong one-handed slam in traffic. As a player, Locke is a quiet, but fiery competitor. You won’t see him talking much trash even if the opponent is in his ear. He simply gets out on the floor, torches teams and leaves. You won’t find many kids who will outwork Locke, either. If there’s ever an off day because of a holiday or a school closure due to weather, he can be found in the gym continuing to hone his skill. He may take some time to adjust to the collegiate game with the pace and physicality (what freshman doesn’t?), but it’s a guarantee that he won’t stop working until he becomes an impact player for Florida. With the playmakers that will be around him next season for the Gators, I don’t think it’ll be long before he’s giving opposing coaches nightmares when he’s left open for a second around the three-point line.”
And now, my conversation with Noah Locke.
EF: Hey Noah, why don’t you start by telling everyone where you live and where you currently play basketball.
NL: I live in Randallstown, Maryland and I play basketball at The McDonogh School in Owings Mills, MD.
EF: When people watch you play basketball the first thing they probably notice is your incredible ability to shoot the basketball. What other tools do you bring to the court?
NL: I consider myself as being a scorer, I can score in many different ways but shooting is my strongest suit. I also bring leadership, toughness, and energy to the floor along with doing whatever it takes to win at all times.
EF: That toughness and do-whatever-it-takes attitude is certain to make you a fan favorite in Gainesville! Those skills you mentioned made you one of the most sought-after guards in the 2018 class and it lead to you getting tons of offers from some of the best programs in college basketball, a lot of them being closer to your home in Maryland. What ultimately made you decide to commit to Mike White and the Gators?
NL: I honestly felt like I was home when I took my visit to Florida. From the academics to basketball, it seemed to be a great fit overall. The playing style that coach White allows the players to play in is exactly how I love to play and that was also a big factor in my decision. I also wanted to go somewhere where I would be challenged because that’s how I got where I am now, nothing has came easy for me all my life and I did not want to go somewhere where it was easy circumstances. Also my family had a big factor in my decision, I had to make sure that my family really liked the school and felt comfortable with me being there. Also, the current team and the incoming recruits with me had a factor in my decision and I felt like I would fit really well with the incoming class and I would be really successful playing in their system overall and would be able to show what I can do at the highest level which will better my opportunity at my ultimate goal, the NBA. Also the whole coaching staff is great and I can really relate and connect with them. I also really felt the family vibe of the whole basketball organization. Then lastly, it’s in Florida with great weather, and who wouldn’t want to be a Florida Gator! *Laughs*
EF: *Laughs* As someone who is also from a cold weather climate I can totally understand the lure of the weather and hopefully your family can make a few trips to Gainesville to visit you and enjoy the weather! Family is huge to the Gators organization and I’m so glad to hear both you and your family felt at home with the Gators. You could see it in their faces on the night you committed! Joining you in the 2018 class is guard Andrew Nembhard and wing Keyontae Johnson. Have you had a chance to watch those guys yet, and how do you see yourself playing alongside them?
NL: I played against Andrew during 16U EYBL and I thought he was an amazing player, his vision out on the floor was amazing and he was all for his team and winning. Me and him went on the same official visit so we became really good friends from that and also from playing against each other. Me and Keyontae have been close friends for a couple years now through playing in tournaments and camps together and I was actually working on getting him to come to Florida and join the family right when I committed because we are close friends and I knew he was a great overall player. I feel that we are the perfect package because we are all great at three of the guard spots and bring all different things to the table that compliment each other. So I feel that we will be really successful out there together and we all will get even closer as friends which would make the connection on the floor even better.
EF: On behalf of Gators fans everywhere, thanks for helping with the recruitment of Keyontae! *Laughs* It’s great to hear how well you guys can play off of each other and how you already have strong relationships off the floor.
You’re chasing a pretty special school record going in to your game tonight. Tell us about the record and which player you will be passing.
NL: No problem! *Laughs* I felt like he was the fit!
Well my older brother Kayel Locke who played at UNC Greensboro and plays in Finland right now for the Helsinki Seagulls holds the record for all-time points at the school with 1938 and I am 23 points away from breaking and I am looking forward to breaking it tonight in our game against Boys Latin. My goal is to hit 2000 by my senior night so I will be working hard for that also. But it feels great to make history and be known for something so valuable.
EF: Getting that record is a fantastic accomplishment on it’s own, but passing your brother for it is probably going to feel extra special! What is it like having an older brother who went through the process of college recruitment, playing division 1 basketball, and now playing professional basketball?
NL: It’s definitely a blessing to have someone in my life that has been through it and understands what it takes to get to that stage. My family is a basketball family, my mom and dad both played division 1 basketball and my little sister is right behind me becoming a great basketball player. So I have a lot of great people in my ear giving me the right information and pushing me to be the best player that I can be and I’m very thankful for that because I lot of players don’t have that.
EF: That is quite the basketball family! Noah, you have been so generous with your time here letting Gators fans get to know more about you. I know you have a big game to prepare for tonight so I’ll only ask you one more question. Other then basketball, what do you like to do with your time? Any hobbies away from the hardwood?
NL: No problem! I enjoyed doing this!
I like to spend time with my close friends and family as much as I can because I am usually in the gym working on my craft so I try to spend as much time as I can with them when I can and I also like to play video games and watch movies and TV shows.
EF: Thank you so much for your time, and good luck tonight!
NL: No problem! Anytime!
Thanks so much to Noah Locke for taking the time to talk with me. You can follow Noah on twitter at @_NoahLocke to keep up with him before he comes to Gainesville next summer. As well, thanks again to Colby Giacubeno from Prep Hoops Maryland (@ColbyGHoops) for his wonderful contribution.