ST. GEORGE — When looking at the teams in Region 9, there isn’t much size to be had. Noah Lemke at Dixie high school is one of the few players with noticeable height in the region. Lemke is a player that stands out of the crowd, both literally and figuratively, because of his high-flying dunks and the various advantages he brings to the Flyers.
At 6-feet-10-inches, Lemke makes for a frightening figure in the middle of Dixie’s defense. The Flyers do play man-to-man defense but when they pack it into their patented zone look, Lemke acts as a rim protector and fly-swatter. Dixie head coach Tyler Roberts characterized the paint as “his house.”
“When we play up and down, after practice we’ll (coaches) talk,” Roberts said of his assistant coach. “He said, ‘every one of our players is scared to go in the paint.’ This is his own team, these are the guys that know him, these are his buddies that are afraid of him because he changes the game.”
The presence that Lemke brings on the defensive end is not something you can see on the stat sheet. In fact, most of what Lemke does for the Flyers does not show up in the statistics.
When a player drives into the lane and fades away or kicks it out, odds are it’s because of the big man down low. Yes, Lemke blocks shots but the number of shots that he effects is much larger then his blocked shot numbers.
On offense, teams are constantly thinking of Lemke. His high-flying alley-oop dunks or his authoritative dump down jams can be a huge momentum swing for the Flyers. When players are worried about his presence down low, suddenly lanes open up for the region’s leading scorer Isaac Finlinson or Jordan Matthews.
Due to his size, Lemke also attracts multiple players when a shot goes up. Teams have to prioritize boxing him out and, all of the sudden, other players are finding their way to those rebounds. He opens up options for other players on his team that the normal eye would not see.
“If I go do my job and they start worrying about me, I know I’ve got five or six other guys that will do the job,” Lemke said of his teammates.
When Dixie goes into games against undersized teams, Lemke becomes not only a scorer but a facilitator. Working the ball inside forces defenses to collapse, opening up Dixie’s guards on the outside.
“Obviously that’s a big thing, having a guy that’s 6’10,” Roberts said. “When we go and play other teams that don’t have any bigs, of course we want to go in the paint. That Crimson game is a perfect example, we kept pounding it in the paint to him. He’s so unselfish, he knows if he gets double-teamed, he’ll find the open guy and our guards are so good at getting open and he’ll find them.”
Lemke had 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists in that game.
While Lemke is currently one of the biggest pieces for the Flyers, the road to becoming the starting center for Dixie was not an easy one. He didn’t even start playing basketball until he was in the ninth grade.
“This is a kid that we found in ninth grade, so he was already a little behind,” Roberts said. “Last year was kind of his big year because he had his big growth spurt and we got him in varsity games. Even the timing of being in the right spots and how to block a shot, all of that didn’t come naturally.”
While Roberts is extremely complimentary of how coachable Lemke is and how much he has grown, he is somewhat behind the curve when compared to kids who started playing basketball at a young age. This hasn’t seemed to phase him.
He has taken on a leadership role in his final year but he doesn’t show it much. Off the court, Lemke seems like a soft-spoken kid, but that is not the case around his friends.
“I don’t get out of my box too much, but I talk a lot with guys I know,” Lemke said. “I know that I’m in the middle of the court and I can see everything, so if I’m not loud then no one else can hear me and they don’t know where everybody else is on the court. If I do my job and I’m loud then I know that everyone else can do theirs.”
He has been forced into the vocal leader role just based on his position and his importance within the Dixie squad. Roberts said he wasn’t very vocal last year, but things have changed.
Off the court, Lemke is your average student. During basketball season, basketball is the focus for him but he does balance his school work. When asked about his hobbies outside of school and basketball, he simply said, “I don’t have any.” You can tell Lemke is locked in to his final season as a Dixie Flyer.
“Off the floor, he’s awesome,” Roberts said. “Funny, a little goofy and just always up for a good time. He’s a fun kid to have and he’s always kind of messing around, which is good because you’ve got to keep it light too. That’s what I told him about the season, we’ve got to have fun also. There’s a time for it obviously but when it’s business it’s business, and he knows it.”
The Flyers currently sit at the top spot in Region 9, two games ahead of the next closest team. When talking about his success, Lemke continuously brought up his teammates. They have a close roster and currently have a large target on their back being the top team in the region.
“Every year, we know that every team plays their best game against us,” Lemke said. “We just know that if we do our job on defense, we play our best and do what we can control then we’ll come out on top.”
The close-knit Flyers have harped the idea of “fly fam.”
“I think we have the best chemistry out of any team in the state,” Lemke said. “We love each other, we’re always with each other and we’re always hanging out.”
While he is focused on his final season in high school, Lemke also has another goal: playing basketball in college. Right now, he has heard from Southern Utah, Westminster and a number of junior colleges.
“That’s the plan right now, we’ll see how it goes,” Lemke said of playing collegiate basketball. “Just playing it day-by-day.”
Lemke will be a focus on every team’s scouting report for the rest of the season, but he has a much bigger effect on the game that isn’t on a scouting report. Opposing players will have him in the back of their minds wherever they are on the court. Keep an eye out for the dominant big man and the Flyers through the rest of the season.
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