Judy Lockett sat in a corner of a hotel lobby in Crystal City on Friday, sipping coffee and talking about the unexpected detours of this past year. It brought her this far. What might be next?
The night before, she sat in the seventh row at Verizon Center and watched her son, Marquette guard Trent Lockett, help lift the Golden Eagles to a convincing win over Miami in the Sweet 16. Should Marquette defeat Syracuse on Saturday in the East Region final, Judy will follow her son to Atlanta and the Final Four.
The road keeps going, the days keep passing, and that’s good enough for this woman, this player, this family.
“In a way,” she said, “I think it has been a blessing.”
About a year ago, Judy called her son from her home near Minneapolis. Arizona State’s basketball season had ended, and she debated with herself on how to tell Trent, then a junior guard for the Sun Devils. A visit to Judy’s doctor had revealed discouraging news, and cancer was again threatening their family.
Judy said she prefers to avoid sharing specifics about her disease, saying it is simply a rare form of lymphoma. And, as she learned in the days before finally making that call to Trent, the prognosis is not good.
This call wouldn’t be easy. Such talks never are. Years earlier, Judy explained to her son how death happens — and how the living must go on. Judy’s husband, Ted, had died when Trent was 3, a few months after a leukemia diagnosis. In those short months, Ted filmed videos and took pictures with his family, quickly filling the shelves and albums with memories. Without them, Trent said Friday, he would have no recollection of his father; sometimes the footage is enough to jog his mind.
“Bits and pieces,” the 22-year-old said, sitting at a table at Verizon Center.
Late last March, Judy told her son. After she delivered the news, there was silence on the other end.
The following days passed slowly, and Trent considered his options. Really, there was only one: He told Sun Devils Coach Herb Sendek, who had recruited Trent and coached him for three seasons, that he was leaving Tempe. Arizona State would be losing its most consistent scorer, but the need was greater at his mother’s side.
He considered Iowa State but chose Marquette, whose Milwaukee campus is five hours east of Golden Valley, Minn. Because Trent had graduated from Arizona State, he was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play immediately for the Golden Eagles as a graduate student (transfers normally are required to sit out a year).
Marquette Coach Buzz Williams, a fiery and demanding man, showed compassion toward Trent, welcoming him to the team. But there also was work to be done and a culture to fit into, particularly for someone who expected to start right away.
“I don’t holler and scream at him any different — because of the nature of [how] he transferred to Marquette — than I holler and scream at Steve Taylor, who is a freshman,” Williams said Friday. “I holler and scream at them all the time; it’s an equal-opportunity deal.”
One day, Trent recalled, Williams singled him out during a conditioning session. Usually this work is done in a group, but Williams wanted to see how the newcomer handled the pressure. Trent’s teammates watched as he sprinted and ran shuttles, again and again, hoping that if he fell, he’d get up.
“We’re all looking at you like, ‘Can you get through this?’ ” sophomore forward Juan Anderson said. “The day Buzz tested him, we’re all counting on Trent to get through this. This is kind of the determining factor of whether we can count on you.”
Trent was an immediate starter, and his addition to the lineup pushed Marquette from solid team to possible contender. The Golden Eagles tied with Georgetown and Louisville for the Big East regular season championship. Williams called Trent the most diligent player in his 19 years in basketball.
“He’s a worker,” Williams said, “and that’s why he fits here.”
This season, Judy drove to each of Marquette’s home Big East games, adding a trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational and one to Pittsburgh, where Taylor Lockett, Trent’s sister, is a freshman volleyball player at Duquesne. She’s also been to Lexington, Ky., for Marquette’s first-round NCAA tournament games.
Judy took a year off from her job, figuring that, as long as there was time, she wanted to spend it with her children. These would be the memories her late husband never had a chance to make.
Judy said she was examined in January, and the tumors have neither grown nor spread despite the fact that she has refused the suggested cancer treatments.
“My theory is, the happier I am, the better my body’s going to work,” she said. “I am, like, defying the odds.”
She said she doesn’t discuss her health often with her children, because in her mind, it’s not a matter worth discussing as long as it doesn’t hinder her life.
So this week, she flew to Pittsburgh, and she and Taylor drove together to Washington to watch Trent play. Friday morning, she drank that coffee and planned her day; a brochure for Mount Vernon sat on the table. After a year of worrying about what might be next, she now considers the possibilities exhilarating.
“Hopefully it’s not the best year of my life,” she said, wearing a dark blue Marquette jacket. “Hopefully there’s more.”
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