UK BASKETBALL | Former Cat Finds His Passion In Flight

01/03/2017 07:05 PM

In a world removed from the hardwood in Kentucky, you can find Rob Lock inside an airplane hangar in Central Florida.

“We call that the forgotten years because he [Coach Eddie Sutton] was only there for a short period of time, not like the coaches that we’ve had in recent years and some good things happened back then and some bad things happened back then and I think that that tells the story of Kentucky basketball,” said Rob Lock, a center at the University of Kentucky from 198-1988. “Maybe those are the years you want to forget and maybe we want to remember the Calipari years and to a lesser extent the Pitino years, but those were my years and so that’s what I remember.”

Lock played a single season for Coach Joe B. Hall and the rest of his career under Coach Eddie Sutton. His time at Kentucky is a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“Coming from California, I didn’t expect it [Kentucky] to be the way it was. I didn’t understand why even in the off season people talked about basketball. Until maybe I got a little older and I understood when you go to Kentucky- that’s a commitment, that’s not just a basketball thing. That’s a full year-round job. So it was an eye opening experience to say the least for me,” Lock added.

While many try to forget those “dark years” of Kentucky basketball (when they faced NCAA sanctions), Lock doesn’t see it that way.

“I think that although we didn’t win a national championship when I was at Kentucky, I was on some really good teams and I had some really good guys I got to play with,” He explained. “When I was a sophomore, we went 32-4 and we should have gone to the final four, but we didn’t. When I was a senior, we were ranked number one in the country for weeks and I think that was really cool that I was a part of that, that I was the starting center on the number one ranked team in the country and although we didn’t go to the final four, those were really good memories and good times. It was really cool to be wearing the Kentucky name across your chest and walking in to arenas and the other team- we knew that they were afraid, just because Kentucky was in town. So that was pretty cool. And even now days, because Kentucky has done so well, and people say ‘where did you go to college because you’re really tall, you must have played basketball?’ and I say ‘well I went to UK’ and like, a level of respect comes over them like ‘Oh my goodness, you went there, really?’ just because of the success they’ve had in the last 10 years, 20 years- I think that’s pretty cool.”

After an eight-year professional career, Lock’s life really took off. You see, basketball was never Lock’s passion.

“I mean I was pretty good at it and wasn’t- and I got to do it at a high level which I think is really cool, but I think when basketball ended and you’re 30 years old, a lot of basketball players were spoon-fed in our twenties. We’re told where to be, what to wear, how to act, and then when all that’s over with you have no one telling you what to do or where to be or what you’re going to do next on the next part of your life and a lot of athletes- whether they’re basketball, football, baseball- they really struggle with that,” Lock told cn|2 Sports. “My plan was waiting for me and so I went right in to it and when I was 30, we started the construction of this brown airplane and it took about five years to finish and everything started coming together in my mid-thirties and I’m 50 years old now, but I think I’m supposed to do this.”

Lock had put his dreams of flying on hold for his soaring basketball career, but those lessons learned on the court during the forgotten years are anything but.

“Basketball has helped me in flying because you see, there are some situations where it’s very stressful. I would be lying to you if I said there are some situations at UK that are very, very stressful, you know? You know, when you’re playing in front of a nationally televised audience or 23,000 screaming people looking at you at a free-throw line and to be honest that’s really helped me because I can handle stress,” Lock said.

In what feels like a different lifetime from his days as a Wildcat, the Big Blue Nation never forgets one of their own.

“People come to the museum and say ‘hey I want to see the wildcat’ and there’s an airplane that he has at the museum called a wildcat and ‘well it’s in the hangar over here’ and they’re like ‘no Rob, I want to see, I’m here to see Rob’, but flying I think is more of who I am. Basketball is what I did for awhile,” Lock, who works and gives flights from a museum in Florida, explained.

He said that cruising at 1,000 feet is more fulfilling than playing in front of 23,000 ever was.

“Flying these planes- it’s for our steer-man program, its putting people in an airplane and they’re afraid to fly an airplane and I take them up there and it’s showing people that you can do things that you’re afraid of doing,” Lock said of his career. “You can push your boundaries. If you can do this, well maybe you can do that well and so it’s kind of a cool self-exploration type thing that we do.”

Lock said as a kid his two dreams were to be a professional pilot and a professional basketball player, and what is not forgotten, is how lucky he is to do both.

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