Interview: NCAA Walk-On with a Mission – Noah Lack

We did some searching for the newest crop of MoTs playing NCAA Ball. We found Noah Lack, a walk-on with a mission. Lack’s drive will take him far and his passion should serve him well. It wasn’t an easy road, but its a story that ends proving hard work pays off. He has a great story and we are ecstatic to introduce him to our readers. 

1) Tell TGR about yourself? 

My name is Noah Lack. I am 20 years old. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas by both of my parents Jonathan Lack and Leslie Goldman who divorced when I was two years old. I have two younger brothers Alex (15) and Jack (13). I was named after my paternal grandparents who died a few years before I was born. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor from Birzai, Lithuania. When I was eight my dad took me to my grandmother’s town on the 65th anniversary of the massacre of her parents, her siblings and Jewish neighbors in a killing field in the woods on the outskirts of her town. My dad also took me to Israel for two weeks when I was ten.  I grew up attending Congregation Emanu El, a Reform synagogue, where I had my Bar Mitzvah. Growing up, I enjoyed playing all sports; including baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and track. Basketball, however, has always been my favorite sport.

2) Where did you play in High School? How did you fair your Senior year and were you recruited?

I went to public school elementary and middle school with the same group of friends. During the eighth grade, I set a goal to play college basketball. However, I did not think I could achieve my goal at the neighborhood public high school that was not known for having a successful basketball program.  I made the extremely tough decision to attend Westbury Christian School (WCS), a small private Church of Christ school across town from where I lived.

WCS is well known for its rich basketball tradition that produces D1 college players every year and for winning over 20 Texas state championships. The transition to WCS was tough for many reasons. First off, I was a Jewish kid attending this Christian school and knew little about the church of christ ways. Secondly, the commute to school could take up to an hour each way every day depending on morning and evening rush hour traffic. Although I made new friends at WCS, I lost many friends where I lived that I had known since kindergarten. 

Quite frankly, my high school experience was challenging. Even though I played on three state championship teams, I had many struggles. I had solid basketball skills and a great three-point shot. However, I did not hit my growth spurt until late into my senior year which caused pains in my knees that slowed me down tremendously. I simply did not have the athleticism, size or strength as my teammates, many of whom were recruited to play for D1 college teams.
Despite all of this, since my sophomore year, I was confident about my ability to be a serious contributor to the team. Unfortunately, I was never given a fair opportunity by the head coach.  As a result, I had zero offers from colleges my senior year.

Fortunately during my senior year, I met JD Collins, who was a former WCS assistant coach that attended WCS as well. JD was a starting guard on a West Virginia University team that made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. After playing professionally in Finland and in the D-League, JD has become one of the best basketball skills trainers in the country. JD worked with me constantly and taught me what it meant to work hard as he started training me to play at the college level. Training with JD during the end of high school, I gained tremendous confidence and realized that I could play college basketball, but in order for me to do that, I had to go to prep school.

I spent a post grad year at Kimball Union Academy (KUA), a prep school in Meriden, New Hampshire. KUA is part of the New England Preparatory Sports Athletic Council (NEPSAC), one of the most competitive high school basketball leagues in the country.  It was difficult living away from home for the first time and adjusting to the New England winters. It was also challenging having to quickly fit into a new basketball system and to a new coach that my teammates had already been familiar with for several years. Through hard work and perseverance my game continued to improve. I continued to physically sprout as well. Although I was recruited by D3 schools and received no D1 offers, I was still determined to be part of a D1 program even though many coaches said it would never happen.

3) What led you to Santa Clara? 
While my recruitment was not where I wanted it to be, I applied to a couple of high academic D1 schools as a back-up plan in case I did not take a D3 basketball offer. Santa Clara University (SCU), a private Jesuit school in the West Coast Conference where my favorite NBA player Steve Nash played, peaked my interest and was one these schools I applied to. After doing some homework, the weather, its location in the middle of Silicon Valley, and its academics were the reasons why I could see myself attending SCU.

In the end, trying to decide which school to attend was really hard for me. I had to weigh between playing at Case Western Reserve, who offered me a partial merit scholarship and a potential spot as the starting point guard, or becoming one of the team managers at SCU, a D1 University with a “one in a million chance” of walking-on as one of the coaches told my dad prior to my making a final decision.

Before I visited both campuses, my dad and I attended the annual Jewish Coaches Association brunch at the Final Four held that year in Phoenix, Arizona.  My dad encouraged me to ask each of the 80 plus coaches at this event what advice they could give me in helping me make my decision. All but one coach told me that if I wanted to play basketball in college, I should attend Case Western Reserve and that if I wanted to go into coaching, I should take the team manager position at Santa Clara University. Jesse Pruitt, an assistant coach at Stanford, whom I had met when he was an assistant coach at Santa Clara, was the only coach who encouraged me to attend Santa Clara and find a way to become a walk-on. After visiting both schools, I decided overall that Santa Clara was a better fit and I would be happier there.

4) How did walk-on tryouts go? What advice do you have for others who want to give it a shot?
A week after graduating from Kimball Union Academy, I moved across the country to Santa Clara start helping the team with their workouts. During that summer, I would make sure to train for tryouts in between my duties as a manager, which included helping out with team workouts, being a coach at the kids basketball camp, as well as doing the team laundry at night.

At the beginning of school, there were walk-on tryouts. Going into tryouts, I set my expectations very low because I heard rumors that there were no guards looking to be chosen to be on the team. Nonetheless, I asked if I could tryout, as the coaches had never seen me play. I was determined to show them that I could play at the D1 level.  I performed at my best and was invited to join the team. When Coach Sendek, the head coach, asked me to join the team as a walk-on, I was filled with excitement and joy.

I want to tell others to follow their dreams if they are willing to put in the work. Countless high school and AAU coaches told me to stop wasting my time trying to play Division 1 basketball. One of the best decisions I have ever made was not to listen to them. If your work ethic is aligned with your goals then it is possible to achieve them, no matter what a coach says. If you want to try out for a college team, there is nothing to lose, so go for it, but at the same time, know what you are getting into. There are a ton of sacrifices you have to make at the D1 level that are not easy to make for anybody, whether you are a walk-on or a five-star recruit. Along the way you may lose friends, time with your family, and opportunities to have fun. However, at the end of the day, if you are invested in it with the right intentions, it is totally worth it for various reasons.

 5) Has college ball been what you expected? How do you see yourself contributing?
College ball is pretty much what I expected. It is a big business. Winning is everything. Every program is looking to build its brand, culture, and fanbase through winning. It can feel at times very impersonal and through recruiting you can see that everyone on the depth chart is replaceable. However, at the same time, it has been an absolute blast. Being on a team with a bunch of guys from around the country and the world, I have made lifelong friendships. I have also been able to see different parts of the country that I would not have visited otherwise. This has been one big great experience I will always cherish. With D1 basketball being a year-round sport, it can be a grind. It is important to know why you are playing and what you are getting out of it. If you do not love the game, then college ball is not what you want to spend your four years in college doing.

As previously stated, a big reason why I have enjoyed my time being on the SCU basketball is because of the great friends and teammates I have made. Part of being a walk-on is having versatility and helping out wherever it’s needed. Whether it is rebounding for guys shooting, playing defense, giving energy, or learning and running the upcoming opponents plays, there are many ways to contribute as a walk-on. These jobs are much easier and more fun to complete when some of your best friends are out there on the court with you, competing and pushing you to be the best you can be every single day. When it is so easy to get along with guys off the court in any type of setting, it is much easier to work on the court and help the team prepare for victory.

6) What are your basketball goals?
I have a large basketball goal of being the absolute best version of myself. This means that before I am done playing basketball, I want to maximize my potential by being as athletically fit as possible and combining that with a skillset I have developed over years of hard work. So many people have doubted my ability to be at this level. I want to combine my love for the game and my desire to compete, to improve and to continue to prove people who have doubted me wrong.

7) What are you plans post playing day?
I want to play basketball for as long as I can. If I could play professionally until I was 40, I would be all in for it. However, given my circumstances of being a walk-on and my limited college playing experience up to this point, playing professional seems like a far-off path as off right now. What will be guaranteed, however, is that I will work as hard as I can to be the best basketball version of myself until the end of my senior year in college. It does not matter if I end up playing professional overseas in Israel, play significant college minutes, or I have the same walk-on role as I do now. At the end of the day, I will walk away from the game extremely proud that I gave it my all, and respected it, as basketball has done so many positive things for me.

I am an Economics major, minoring in Entrepreneurship. I have had a couple of great summer internships that have really helped my professional experience. I am looking to have a couple of internships in Silicon Valley before I graduate.  After my playing days are over, I would like to work in Venture Capital and eventually start my own multi-family office managing the balance sheet for high net-worth athletes and families.

8) Anything else TGR readers should know?
I would just like to tell readers that it is so important to surround yourself around people that sincerely want to you succeed. Many people are supportive of your ambitions until they see yourself doing better than them or feel threatened. Having a small circle of people you can completely trust and can open up to about any issues you have in life is so important for progression and development. It also keeps your sanity, and prevents putting loads trust or emotion into people who have selfish and conflicting intentions.  If you only have 1 or 2 people that 100% support your dreams, so be it. This tight circle is necessary. Everybody who reaches a noble goal they set needs someone else to help along the way. Show the most love to the people who stayed the same and supported you at your lowest point, because these are the most important people you need for the rest of your life.


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