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November 12, 2008For those who might question why a national Top-100 high school basketball recruit from Minnetonka, Minn., would decide to make an early commitment to attend a non-traditional powerhouse college program in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, Net Gain Sports AAU coach Marquis Watts has a pretty compelling answer.
"If (Portland Trailblazers head coach) Nate McMillan trusts (Arizona State coach) Herb (Sendek) with his kid (sophomore Jamelle McMillan) and his basketball knowledge," Watts said, "how can we not look at that and say the same thing?"
And so, following two visits to Tempe, one of Watts' star players, 6-5 203 pound Hopkins High School star wing Trent Lockett, the No. 73 overall recruit in the 2009 class by Rivals.com, decided he wanted to be a Sun Devil.
Of course, it wasn't that simple. It never is.
Watts may give a succinct answer after the fact, but he and those around Lockett had many questions they needed answered before they were willing to embrace ASU as a responsible destination for Lockett.
Lockett's mother Judy, for instance, was most concerned with academics, and rightfully so considering her son is a near-straight 'A' student.
"I was very impressed beforehand with coach Sendek and his focus on academics from what I was able to read about him," Judy said. "He graduated with honors from Carnegie Mellon, was valedictorian of his high school class, and that part was very impressive.
"But I didn't know that much about Arizona State. We were working with Marquis; he was helping to guide me on the basketball side. But I wanted to learn more about the school, and when we did, it just really put me at ease, especially knowing that Trent could be a part of the Honors College there, and what a strong academic reputation it had. I just loved coach Sendek's emphasis on academics, the Honors College and Trent's ability to succeed in a well-rounded way."
Trent himself was primarily focused on where he fit in with the coaches and players in terms of playing style and personality.
"The first time I went down to their camp, I didn't really know much about the school and I didn't really know the coaching staff or anything," Locket said. "I had a good time but left not knowing much, It was just playing basketball every day.
"But then I talked to coach (Mark) Phelps (now the head coach at Drake) and other coaches, they came up watched me, and eventually I went down there again and fell in love with the place. The most important thing was the coaches seemed really credible and not fake like is the case sometimes. The more I learned, the more I felt, 'What else do I need from a school?' It's a great college with a great coaching staff, great people around the program, a big city environment with a college-town feel, an impressive honors college, and an amazing atmosphere."
Since giving the Sun Devils a verbal commitment in October of last year -- before even the start of his junior season -- Lockett has begun preparing for the next level of basketball. His typical routine involves waking up at 6 a.m. before school and going to the gym to shoot 700-800 jump shots every morning.
My confidence is just growing and growing," Lockett said. "I'm focusing on becoming a great shooter. Right now I really do feel comfortable with my 1-2 pull up and just being able to get to the rack off the dribble, but everyone is bigger and stronger next level. The thing I want to work on for next season is just being a lot more comfortable with ball handling and outside shooting. I think when those areas of my game completely catch up with the other parts I'm going to be a pretty complete player."
Lockett's high school coach at Hopkins, Kenny Novak, agrees.
"He's an interesting kid because he does a lot of things really well," Novak said. "He's a very good shooter, but he'll become a better shooter. He goes to basket, defends the ball well. I think the one thing he's got in common with almost all the kids I've coached that are great is he works at it. He studies the game, he puts in a tremendous effort and time.
"He wasn't the typical kid who was really good young and then just stayed ahead of the curve. In 5th, 6th grade he was just decent. But In 7th grade he started to make big strides, getting bigger, more athletic. He started to get better and then when you put his work ethic on top of that it really became something."
Hopkins is a clear-cut preseason favorite to win a state championship this year, Novak and Lockett agree. The team was top-ranked last season for a stretch before losing to Minnetonka High School in an overtime playoff game.
But Minnetonka has lost the vast majority of its rotation from last season, while Hopkins returns just about everyone.
"There's no way we should lose a game this season," Lockett said. "Expect we play in New York for a tournament, so I don't know about that. It's at Madison Square Garden, so I'm really looking forward to that.
"This should be a real special senior year. And then I have something equally special to look forward to after that with college. It's really exciting."