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As a young boy growing up in Madison and playing in the youth basketball leagues, Fernandez Lockett had the constant dreams of one day growing tall in his favorite sport of basketball. As he would have it, he steadily grew taller, not only physically, but as a talented player to where he can now say he plays the sport for living.
“I tell young players today, don’t let anyone take your dreams away from you,” said Lockett.
The 26-year old, 6-foot-5 Lockett currently plays in the professional basketball leagues in Australia.
Lockett is back home now for a few months contemplating his future as he hopes to hear from the Chicago Bulls of the NBA or entertain the idea of returning to Australia for his fourth consecutive season. He has been contacted by the Bulls about a possible tryout, but the current NBA lockout is putting all of his options on hold. He may sit out a season and look at the NBA or take a look at playing in the European leagues, which begin its pre-season practices in July. If he chooses to go back to Australia, where the leagues play a season from April to September, he will be committed to play an entire season.
“I’m waiting to hear from the Bulls on what they intend to do, but I know I can’t wait for very long as my team in Australia, the Mount Gambier Pioneers of the South East Australian Basketball League, will need to know a decision by mid-January,” said Lockett, from his parents home in Madison.
Lockett is the son of Lynn and Velma Lockett. He has two younger brothers, both of which play high schools sports. Desmond Dennis is a linebacker for the Bob Jones football team while Jawuam Lockett is a junior at Columbia High playing basketball.
For Lockett, his memories of playing in the small gymnasiums in Madison include him playing hard, learning the game and having those dreams of some day making it big in basketball. He later attended Bob Jones High under, then Coach Dan Bell. As a senior in 2003, Lockett was named second team All-State while the Patriots lost in overtime to John Carroll High in the state championship game.
Upon exiting high school, he played five years at Austin Peay University. He finished his college playing days with over 1,000 career points and amassed 700 rebounds during the 2003-2008 seasons. His teams at Austin Peay reached the NCAA Tournament representing the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC).
“At that point, I had my goals and my ambitions to make it to the professional level,” said Lockett. “I saw my aunt, Linda Burgess, play college basketball at Alabama, nine seasons overseas and then four years in the Women’s Basketball Association. Playing basketball is in my family history.”
Known as “Dez” in the land down under, Lockett just completed the 2011 season with the Pioneers where he averaged 16-points and 11-rebounds. The Pioneers finished sixth in the league standings.
Prior to joining the Pioneers, Lockett played the 2009 season with the Albany Wodonga Bandits leading the SEABL in rebounding. In 2010, he had another stellar season with the Kilsyth Cobras where he was named to the All SEABL 5 Team.
“I like living in Australia as the people are friendly and the surroundings make for a good atmosphere to live. The city where I currently live is about the size of Huntsville and is about a four hour drive to Melbourne,” said Lockett. “The fan base there is really about winning.”
Part of his contract with the Pioneers includes receiving housing and a car to drive. Lockett lives in a big house with three Pioneers teammates. He said the house is big enough to accommodate the four of them comfortably.
In January of 2009, Lockett was looking into the move to Australia, which includes a flight to Los Angeles before a 16-hour, non-stop flight to Melbourne. Before he had that decision to go “down under”, he received a phone call from the world famous Harlem Globetrotters. His Austin Peay assistant coach, Charles Wells, who at one time played for the Globetrotters, encouraged the team to contact Lockett thinking he would be a great addition to the world traveling basketball entertainers.
The Globetrotters flew Lockett to Indianapolis for a team “Trotter Tryout”. The Globetrotters liked what they saw; great talent, flair of a personality and charm to make others mile.
Curly Neal, the one-time great with the Globetrotters, sat down with Lockett and told the young player from Alabama about his experiences with the traveling team. Neal told Lockett the Globetrotters were looking for a career type player and not one that would play for a couple years and then give up the game. The Globetrotters offered Lockett a contract that would take Lockett on a world-wind, 267-day tour.
“I turned them down after talking to my family,” said Lockett. “I think they (Globetrotters) are great entertainment, but it’s not what I wanted to do. I was looking for a more competitive game. I decided to make the trip to Australia instead.”
During his current off-season stay in Madison, Lockett is working on an assembly line at Toyota and keeps in tip-top physical condition by working with Andy McCloy, who is the Madison Academy High strength and conditioning coach and is owner of Body Creations, which specializes in training elite athletes.
“I can tell a huge difference in my strength and being quicker than before,” said Lockett of workouts with McCloy. “My vertical jump is better.”
Lockett hits the workouts under McCloy’s guidance five days-a-week. The sessions include lots of weight lifting and outside running drills. On his own, Lockett also makes it to the gymnasium at Bob Jones where puts himself through basketball drills and shooting practice.
Teaching others the correct way to play basketball is also an item of love for Lockett. He is training young players in his 1-on-1 business and is looking to expand his cliental and utilize local church gymnasiums as locations to make average basketball players into elite talents.
While awaiting the decisions he shall make for his immediate future, “Dez” dabbles in the playing of the bass guitar, watching occasional games of the local youth basketball league where he once played and continues pursuing his dream of playing in the NBA.
“I’m not done yet,” exclaimed Lockett. “My dream is in the making.”
By Bob Labbe