Last season against Vanderbilt, Florida shooting guard Noah Locke torched the Commodores at the O’Connell Center. He was 6 for 8 on three-pointers that night at an impressive 75 percent. Two games later, he didn’t register a point against Kentucky.
That swing defined Locke’s 2019-20 season. The streaky shooter would often be the key reason the Gators won a game. Other games he was a non-factor at best. Florida is 23-11 the last two seasons when Locke scores double digits.
One reason was health. Locke’s hip was not 100 percent all season, but it felt good enough to play through. So while it did not stop him, it did hinder his consistency. This offseason, the junior got surgery back in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.
“Now my leg just feels so much more loose,” Locke said.
He described his hip with optimism. Locke explained that while he has some mental hurdles to get over, he feels noticeably better.
“It’s still in my head sometimes that I can’t do certain movements, but once I start playing, I realize that I’m just moving so much quicker,” Locke said.
While Locke is quicker, so are the Gators. Coach Mike White has said on multiple occasions that he wants this year’s team to play with a faster tempo. It’s a change the career 40% three-point shooter doesn’t mind.
“Transition has always been good for me,” Locke said. “Just getting out and going, that’s always been the way I’ve played so just getting back to that would be something I’m looking forward to.” And not just for himself, Locke believes this is the best way for this particular group to play to their strengths.
“We can get a lot more easy baskets, we’ll be able to play aggressive, more tough,” Locke said. “We’ll just be able to play with more freedom. I feel like that’s a better way for us, especially with the guys that we have.”
With a healthy hip and a familiar brand of basketball headed Locke’s way, perhaps consistency could be as well. “We’re an athletic team,” Locke said. “With me coming back with my hip injury, and coming back 100 percent, I feel like I’ll be able to contribute very well with that.”
Contact Graham Marsh at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF.