Kayel Locke

Kayel Locke (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis)

For McDonogh forward Kayel Locke, Sunday’s commitment toUNC-Greensboro was a long time coming.

Locke was tempted to end his recruitment last fall, but the NCAA’s early signing period came and went without the 6-foot-5, 245-pound senior signing his scholarship papers to attend the Southern Conference school.

“I actually was really close to committing to them late in the fall,” Locke said Sunday night. “But at the time, in talking to my parents, they kind of told me to wait it out. They didn’t feel comfortable with the whole situation with the head coach.”

The Locke family’s concern over Mike Dement’s future at UNC-Greensboro was validated in December when the Spartans coach – after a 2-8 start to the season – resigned his post. Assistant coach Wes Miller took over as the interim head coach, and – after guiding UNCG to an 11-11 record – had the interim tag removed. With the 29-year-old Miller in Greensboro for at least the next five years, Locke felt comfortable offering his pledge to the youngest Division I men’s hoops coach.

“From the beginning, we had a really good relationship,” Locke said. “I thought [the fact that Miller is so young] was cool because he really related to me on a lot of subjects. I think having experience is also a great thing. It’s also cool to be a part of a team with a coach who really can connect with his players and bring them together in that aspect. I see them playing hard for their coach. I knew that’s what I wanted. I thought it was definitely a good thing.”

A 2011 Baltimore Sun second-team All-Metro selection, Locke picked UNC-Greensboro over offers from Appalachian State, Central Connecticut State, Holy Cross, Monmouth and Tennessee Tech.

Locke, who was selected to the MIAA A Conference first team after averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Eagles, has visited UNC-Greensboro’s campus twice. He took an official visit there last year, and returned to Greensboro during the college season. Locke said he hit it off with the entire coaching staff, and also had good conversations with the athletic director and the school’s chancellor.

“[I knew I wanted to go there] after seeing where I fit in with the whole program with the talent they have coming back next year,” Locke said. “I have a great relationship with the staff – not just the coaching staff, but the staff of the school. ... After that, I just felt like I was part of the family. That’s when I knew.”

Locke, who is considering a major in accounting or business management, said he was impressed by the “college-town feel” and architecture of the mid-sized DI campus.  He said he’s excited to leave his mark “on the court and off the court in a positive way.” Next fall, Locke has his sights set on a major role for the Spartans, who finished 13-19 during the 2011-12 season.

“Talking to Coach Wes, he told me as long as I do what I’m supposed to do and work hard every day, he sees me making a major impact and potentially starting my freshman year and getting a lot of time and doing a lot of things for him,” said Locke, who will play the 4 and potentially some 3. “I don’t want to be one of those guys that went there to play basketball and that was it. I just want to make sure everybody is able to remember my legacy. My No. 1 thing is to work hard and be dedicated."