Almost a year ago, before Noah Locke earned All-Metro first-team honors and emerged as maybe the top shooter at Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League this summer, Darris Nichols came to McDonogh to check in on the then-junior guard.
Nichols, a Florida assistant coach, liked what he saw. He told Mike White, the Gators' head coach, about the 6-foot-2 deadeye shooter. Before long, Locke had a scholarship offer, among the first of dozens that piled up during a breakout high school and Amateur Athletic Union season.
When Locke set his official-visit schedule this fall, Gainesville was last on the list. Eagles coach T.J. Jordan said Gators coaches worried he might commit elsewhere before he even made it to campus. But he didn't, and after he returned from Florida this weekend, Locke told Jordan that "all the boxes were checked."
So on Tuesday, he committed, revealing a Gators T-shirt underneath his sweater during an announcement on Facebook Live.
"After going there, he was just blown away by it and he knew that it was the right fit for him," Jordan said Tuesday night.
Locke also visited Michigan, Ohio State, Providence and Xavier. Kansas and Maryland were among the other high-profile schools to offer him after a summer in which he averaged 18.2 points on 51.4 percent shooting in 16 Nike EYBL games. His 49.5 percent accuracy from beyond the arc is second best in the four years that stats have been kept for the Nike EYBL, according to Open Look Analytics.
Locke's commitment comes a day after Florida landed top-30 point guard Andrew Nembhard, also a Class of 2018 recruit. Jordan said Locke will be more of a combo guard for the Gators, asked to handle the ball when necessary but also seek buckets when he's on the floor — "and that's what he's really good at."
"Being the shooter that he is, you can't teach that," Jordan added. "Shooters play at every level."
Before being named the junior varsity coach at McDonogh, and then the varsity coach last year, Jordan spent nearly three years as the director of basketball operations for the Lehigh men, his tenure overlapping with the final three years of Mountain Hawks star CJ McCollum's.
Last season, McCollum scored 23 points per game for the Portland Trail Blazers; Locke averaged 18 for the Eagles as a junior. Still, Jordan sees some McCollum in his senior leader.
"I see similarities as far as the work ethic goes with CJ," he said. "I really do. Just the fact that CJ was a gym rat — Noah is a gym rat, first and foremost. I see that comparison.
"It's so similar in what their games are like. CJ was able to develop more of his ball-handling in college, and then especially in the NBA. But at the same time, Noah's at that same point."
At Florida, Jordan said, the program's preparation for a life in and outside of basketball felt "perfect" to Locke.
"Noah has always felt that he was a high-level basketball player at the next level," Jordan said. "It was a match made in heaven."