LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Noah Locke has already proven that he's a gifted, elite shooter. Now he is focused on showing off some of his other talents for his new team as a complement to his marksmanship.
After an extended display of his deadly shooting ability at the University of Florida, where he hit 40.3 percent from three-point range in three seasons, the 6-foot-3 guard is bringing his skills to Louisville for the 2021-22 campaign.
UofL coach Chris Mack calls Locke "one of the best pure shooters in the country," noting that he can be accurate in several ways -- on the move, off the dribble and in transition.
Locke averaged 10.6 points as a junior last season for the Gators while making a team-high 57-of-141 treys (.404), with a season-high of 19 points at West Virginia. His career-best is 27 points against Texas A&M as a freshman. Nearly 64 percent of his field goal attempts last year came from beyond the arc and his 217 career three-pointers ranks ninth in UF history.
Locke readily acknowledges that "shooting is my biggest strength." But that doesn't mean he's a one-trick pony, and he's eager to prove it.
"I feel like I'm a good shooter and can be a great shooter," he said during a media teleconference Wednesday afternoon. "Just continue to make those shots when I'm open. But I do feel like I can do other things. If I'm put in the right situation, which I am now, I think I can make different reads, get in the lane, draw fouls. . .stuff like that to make my teammates better. Overall, just be a better version of myself."
Locke didn't initially mention defense, but when asked about it responded that he believes he's a "good defender" too.
"I have a toughness about me," he said. "Defense is a lot more mental. I feel like when it's time to get a stop, I can get one. I wouldn't say I'm the best defender in the world, I still have work to do. But I definitely can guard. If I have to get a stop, I will."
When Locke decided to leave Florida and put his name in the transfer portal, he got plenty of interest before choosing UofL over finalists Connecticut, North Carolina, Oregon and Providence. A major factor was his earlier relationship with Mack, who recruited him out of the McDonogh School near Baltimore while he was coaching at Xavier. Locke also wanted a better situation in which to showcase his versatility as a combo guard.
"I felt a great vibe from the (Xavier) coaches. That was the biggest thing with my commitment to Louisville," he said. "I had a good connection with (Mack) coming out of high school and I felt I could get the opportunity I was looking for, that he had a good plan for me. It was the best position I could put myself in."
Louisville lost both starting guards, David Johnson and Carlik Jones, so the opportunity for substantial playing time next season is obviously available and Locke is in the mix with three other newcomers -- Mike James, El Ellis and Jerrod West.
Locke comes from a basketball family. His parents, Vanessa and Kyle, both played four years at Coppin State, where his dad was a MEAC All-Rookie selection. His brother Kayel, who plays pro basketball in the Netherlands, played four seasons at UNC Greensboro, where he ranks sixth all-time in points (1,522) and seventh in rebounds (652). His yonger sister Paige is a standout on the women's team at McDonogh High.
UofL OFFERS REED SHEPPARD
Mack set up a potential head-to-head recruiting battle with Kentucky coach John Calipari for a Wildcat legacy recruit when UofL extended a scholarship offer this week to North Laurel guard Reed Sheppard, the son of two former UK standouts.
"Blessed to have received an offer from the University of Louisville," Sheppard tweeted.
Sheppard, a 6-foot-2 junior, is the son of Jeff Sheppard and Stacey Reed, two of UK's most renowned basketball players from thje 1990s. He created an early buzz in the state as a freshman by notching a rare quadruple-double with 24 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and 10 steals in a win over Jackson County. Then he averaged 30.1 points per game as a sophomore this past season while shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range and leading North Laurel to a 25-3 record, highlighted by his 50-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double in a victory over South Laurel.
Sheppard earned "best offensive player" honors from 247Sports in the GASO & IMO Memorial Day Classic on the Adidas circuit and is listed as the No. 12 overall combo guard in the 2023 class.
Sheppard made an unofficial visit to Louisville on June 3. He has also visited Virginia and has offers from Iowa, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Iona, which is coached by former UofL and UK coach Rick Pitino. Sheppard told 247Sports national recruiting analyst Travis Branham recently that he doesn't have an offer yet from UK, but that the Wildcats' staff, including Calipari, has been in contact.
"They have a great program," Sheppard told Branham. "Coach Cal has done a great job. It's every high school player's dream in Kentucky to play at Kentucky, but right now I'm not worried about any of that. Just keeping all of my options open and I know that in the end God will put me where I need to be."
CARDS TO PLAY IN BAHAMAS
Louisville will replace NC State and face Mississippi State in the first round of the Cable Beach Classic in Nassau Bahamas Nov. 25 and 27. The other two teams in the field are Maryland and Richmond.
Among other games that have been announced or reported on the Cards' non-conference schedule for 2021-22 are Navy on Nov. 9 in the KFC Yum! Center, Western Kentucky in Bowling Green on Dec. 18 and UK and Cincinnati on dates that haven't been finalized. UofL will also host an as-yet-unnamed opponent for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and compete in the 2021 Empire Classic Nov. 18-19 in Madison Square Garden, joining Gonzaga -- likely to be ranked No. 1 nationally -- Oklahoma State and Providence.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.