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Khalif Hocker

Ohio State Commit Khalif Hocker Set to Play for USA Select at Fall Classic

September 28, 2023
Matt DaSilva

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF TELEVISION. Even for the generation that grew up on YouTube, the boob tube still has its moments.

Khalif Hocker can pinpoint the exact day he knew he wanted to play lacrosse at the highest level: June 1, 2015. He was 8. Nickelodeon did not have cartoons, so Hocker grabbed the remote at his grandmother’s house and pressed the channel-up button. Three clicks later, he stopped to see Notre Dame and Denver playing in the NCAA semifinals on ESPN2.

I play this,” he said aloud.

Denver defeated Notre Dame 11-10 in overtime and went on to win the national championship. But like many lacrosse fans who watched that day — be they the 29,000-plus at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia or the 240,000-plus tuned into the broadcast — Hocker remembers the game as the one where the Motor City Hitman went on a rampage.

Detroit native Sergio Perkovic, a 6-foot-4 Adonis with a stick, scored five goals in six minutes, maybe 10 in real time as Notre Dame pulled even late in the four quarter. It was one of the most stunning individual performances in NCAA tournament history.

“That’s what got me hooked on lacrosse,” Hocker said. “I wanted to be able to score five goals in the final four.”

Eight years later, Hocker’s obsession has become his calling. A Cincinnati native and USA Lacrosse All-American attackman at St. Xavier (Ohio), Hocker committed to Ohio State on Sept. 12 after a sterling summer playing for Resolute Lacrosse. He’s a five-star prospect according to Inside Lacrosse and the National Lacrosse Federation, each of which ranked him in the top 20 in the class of 2025.

Moreover, Hocker was one of just 22 players nationwide to earn a spot on the USA Select U16 team that will compete against international competition at the USA Lacrosse Fall Classic from Oct. 13-15 in Baltimore.

“That’s the ultimate goal for everybody who plays lacrosse, representing your country,” said Hocker, who qualified for the team after an impressive showing at the National Team Development Program Combine at USA Lacrosse headquarters in August. “I told my dad, ‘I have to do this.’”

Hocker’s father, Jamar, played basketball at Kentucky State. His mother, Donna, has a brother who officiates lacrosse and encouraged him to try the sport with the Sycamore Lacrosse Association’s K-2 league. Suiting up for the first time on a frigid February morning, Hocker nearly quit on the spot.

“I think that’s the coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life,” he said. “My dad made me stick with it.”

Hocker credits his father for much of his success in the sport since that day. Even though he never played lacrosse, he channeled his basketball experience to help his son learn how to dodge and shoot in the yard behind their three-bedroom Cape Cod in Cincinnati’s Silverton suburb.

“That’s where I grew a love for the game,” said Hocker, who soon gave up swimming to focus exclusively on lacrosse. “He told me, ‘If you want to play in college, I can get you there.’”

Hocker was already on most college coaches’ radar before this summer. He’s 6-foot-1 and can dead lift 605 pounds. After emerging as a freshman at St. Xavier with 44 goals and 20 assists in 2022, he exploded for 82 goals and 40 assists as a sophomore in 2023.

Playing for Resolute Lacrosse also allowed Hocker to level-up his skillset thanks to the club’s focus on the box game. He traveled to San Jose, California, to compete in the USBOXLA Nationals and added an element of slickness to his field game. Getting a 10- to 15-yard running start on a dodge felt like a luxury.

“It made the field game seem slow,” he said. “I see things develop before they happen now.”

Former Ohio State teammates Anthony Kelly and Greg Bice started Resolute Lacrosse in 2009. Now it’s one of the preeminent clubs in the country — and the only one that owns an indoor facility. A former 10-year pro and two-time U.S. box team player, Kelly played a particularly important role in Hocker’s development.

“Khalif is one of the most dynamic players to be a part of the Resolute family,” Kelly told the NLF’s Matt Chandik when he gave Hocker a five-star rating in March. “His athleticism and versatility, mixed with his toughness and competitiveness, put him on a completely different level than any other player in the 2025 class.”

Despite playing with a sports hernia, Hocker wowed evaluators at the Maverik Showtime and Main Stage Lacrosse showcases. Inundated with calls and texts once college coaches could start contacting high school juniors Sept. 1, he narrowed his choices to Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Buckeyes coach Nick Myers, who has won two gold medals at the helm of the U.S. U20 team, impressed Hocker with honest answers when asked how he could improve.

Ten days later, Hocker made his decision. Columbus felt like home all along.

“I just loved their coaching style,” said Hocker, who said he made up his mind two hours into his official visit. “Coach Myers was a really good mentor. He’s not just doing this for the betterment of his team. He wants me, Khalif, to succeed. Lacrosse or not. He’s just a straight-up dude. I love that guy.”

Kelly said Hocker’s experience in the box game would make him “a truly unique American player.” Now he’ll enjoy a uniquely American experience at the USA Lacrosse Fall Classic, where the USA Select teams will compete against teams from the Haudensaunee Nation and Ontario for the Brogden Cup.

Tickets are on sale now.