Rhymes with ‘Block:’ a real student-athlete
His name rhymes with “block” — and that’s what he does.
Andrew Locke is the stalwart 6’10” senior center for the Middlebury College basketball team, which is enjoying great success again this year. The Panthers have won 21 games against a single loss, and have earned a ranking in the top five NCAA Division III teams in the country.
Andrew owns all the college’s records for blocked shots, in a game (13!), in a season (114, last year), and in his career (349 and counting — no one else is even close). He has a national profile in shot-blocking as well: Last year, he had the second most blocks in the country in D-III, mostly small colleges.
This year he is third nationally with 85 blocks (more than four a game), despite the fact that teams now routinely account for Andrew’s looming presence near the basket in their offensive strategy. He discourages penetration; he alters shots or discourages them altogether. He is a game-changer, a difference maker.
Andrew is tall, yes, but his skill at blocking opponents’ shots is a gift that goes beyond his size. As his coach, Jeff Brown, explains, “He’s very agile; he can run the floor; he’s athletic and can ‘elevate.’ He came to us with good timing, but in the four years he’s been here, he has really built himself up physically.
“He anchors our defense, allowing us to be very aggressive. When he makes a big block or dunks off a miss, he picks up his teammates emotionally and excites the fans.”
He also contributes at the other end of the floor, holding school records for field goal percentage in a season (.612) and career (.578, so far). This year he’s averaging 11 points a game and eight rebounds, while shooting at a percentage of .621.
Last weekend, in Middlebury’s win over previously undefeated Amherst, Andrew had six blocks – and a thunderous put-back of a teammate’s shot that aroused the crowd of more than 1,100 fans.
Coach Brown has enjoyed witnessing Andrew’s “dramatic improvement” over his four years in college, “fulfilling his potential.” He says, “Andrew has done a tremendous job in the weight room, building himself up. He’s a great teammate.”
To describe Andrew’s basketball skills and importance to his team doesn’t begin to tell the story of Andrew Locke the college student, the young man. He is a student-athlete in the truest sense.
A Neuroscience and Economics double major, Andrew’s GPA at Middlebury is 3.55, which last year earned him the honor of Academic All-American and a place on the NESCAC All-Academic team.
He would love to nudge his GPA over 3.6 and earn magna cum laude honors at his graduation in May. It won’t be easy. His spring semester schedule of four classes includes an upper level “Human Genetics” class, a seminar in “Behavioral Economics,” “Environmental History of Africa,” and a Philosophy course on “Consciousness.” His winter term course was “Neural Disorders.”
“I’ve always balanced basketball and academics pretty well,” he says. “I’m passionate about both. I’ve always been curious — I’m authentically interested in my courses.”
Andrew connects his studies to basketball. “My mentality has changed in college. I am competitive in a much deeper way. I am doing better academically than I did in high school, asking more of myself. I have the same feeling when I hand in a paper that I do when we win a basketball game.”
When he graduates he will likely pursue a career that reflects his economics background, rather than his fascination with science, though he finds connections there too. “There’s more application than you think. Both areas describe human behavior.” He is considering going into development economics, “to solve problems economically in a sustainable way, probably in Africa.”
His interest in Africa reflects his experience abroad in the fall of his junior year, when he studied at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
“I wanted an experience different from my peers (over half of Middlebury students study abroad in their junior year), and I had never been to Africa,” Locke says. “I like to put myself in uncomfortable places. It was isolating, but liberating at the same time.”
He played for the University of Cape Town team in a scholastic league of about 10 teams. Practices were at 6 a.m. His coach at UCT was an American priest who told him, “God sent you to save Cape Town basketball.” Talk about pressure!
He also coached middle and high school kids in the township of Gugulethu. “It was really fun,” he says. “Basketball is a wonderful vehicle of cultural exchange. It really helped breaking down barriers, a great way to meet people. People loved sharing their stories about basketball.”
Andrew’s future may include more basketball after his Middlebury career. He is thinking seriously of putting off his entry into the job world to play basketball in Europe. “Spain is my first choice,” he says. “I took Spanish in high school and I’d like to learn it again. Plus the basketball is really good there.”
Andrew Locke is really good at blocking shots. He’s really good at other things too. He’s a true student-athlete.