Oakand’s Nor­ris has be­come the can’t-miss kid

The Detroit News - - College Basketball - BY TONY PAUL The Detroit News

Braden Nor­ris had no idea what to ex­pect as a fresh­man at Oak­land. He got 11 min­utes, then 14, then eight in the first three games of the sea­son.

Then, about 20 min­utes be­fore tip-off at the O’Rena on Nov. 19, coach Greg Kampe told Nor­ris he would be the team’s start­ing point guard against De­fi­ance.

Sev­eral Oak­land play­ers, in­clud­ing in­cum­bent start­ing point guard Brailen Neely, had skipped out on study-hall obli­ga­tions, and Kampe was send­ing a di­rect mes­sage. No books, no looks.

“I was sur­prised. I think ev­ery­one else was sur­prised with the lineup chang­ing,” Nor­ris said the other day. “Luck­ily, it came on a day, I think, we were the fa­vorite.” The kid’s funny.

Nor­ris stepped in, played 36 min­utes and scored 10 points in the 91-47 vic­tory. He was 3-for-4 on 3-point­ers.

That was enough for Kampe to give Nor­ris an­other start against James Madi­son on Nov. 23, and Nor­ris has been the guy ever since — im­press­ing so much, Neely, who had pre­vi­ously told Kampe he was nurs­ing a sore knee, now has left the team.

In the three-day hol­i­day tour­na­ment at the O’Rena, Nor­ris scored 12, 14 and 18 points and was 11-for-12 on 3-point­ers. Amaz­ingly, he didn’t even make the all­tour­na­ment team.

For the sea­son, he’s now 20for-26 on 3-point­ers — it’s got­ten to the point where the other day when he missed one, broad­caster Neal Ruhl called for an AP alert.

“He’s shoot­ing an un­be­liev­able per­cent­age, but he’s tak­ing great shots,” Kampe said. “He’s just a very, very smart kid. His dad was his high-school coach. He’s a tough kid, he’s played on win­ning teams. His point-guard per­for­mance those three games were as good a point-guard per­for­mance we’ve had since Kay Felder was here. It was un­be­liev­able. It’s noth­ing but great for us in the fu­ture.

“It’s the most im­por­tant po­si­tion for us in the game.”

More than the scor­ing, it’s Nor­ris’ ball-han­dling that has stood out to Kampe. Dur­ing those hol­i­day games, he had 21 as­sists to five turnovers — as Oak­land went 2-1, wins in the first two games over James Madi­son and Oral Roberts, then a loss to North­ern Illi­nois in the third game in three days, the Golden Griz­zlies legs clearly shot.

For the sea­son, Nor­ris has 47 as­sists to 11 turnovers, a ra­tio that was even bet­ter un­til his nine as­sist-four turnover game in the win over Fair­field on Thurs­day.

In four of six starts, he’s had one turnover or none.

That’s some­thing Nor­ris, Hil­liard, Ohio, takes pride in.

“Oh yeah, de­feinitely,” he said. “Grow­ing up, my dad was my coach, and then my AAU coach, (they stressed) possession of the ball, def­i­nitely tak­ing care of the ball. Turnovers were never ac­cept­able grow­ing up.”

Nor­ris, 19, wasn’t heav­ily re­cruited out of high school. He is short. His bio says 6-foot, but

of

yeah, bios. Kampe and Oak­land, of course, have never shied away from short point guards, most no­tably Felder.

Oak­land found Nor­ris on the re­cruit­ing trail while they were look­ing at even­tual Michi­gan State com­mit­ment Foster Loyer. Loyer and Nor­ris played AAU ball to­gether.

The more and more Oak­land looked at Loyer, the more they fell in love with Nor­ris (of course, they weren’t go­ing to get Loyer).

It has thus far proven quite the get for Kampe, who was con­vinced dur­ing the pre­sea­son prac­tices that Nor­ris wasn’t ready — and nine games in, he’s fully con­vinced.

“He’s our start­ing point guard and he earned that,” Kampe said. “He played his way into min­utes. Now, he can play his way out of them, too. I knew he was gonna be a good player, but I didn’t know when.”

Curry cleared

Detroit Mercy, af­ter start­ing 3-3 un­der first-year coach Mike Davis, has hit a rough patch, los­ing four in a row — and the last two in blowout fash­ion, 98-58 at Day­ton and 101-57 at Toledo, on back-to-back nights.

But the Ti­tans did get some good news.

Har­ri­son Curry, a junior for­ward who trans­ferred from Louisiana Tech, has been cleared by the NCAA and got his first taste of ac­tion. Curry played in just one game for Louisiana Tech last sea­son be­fore suf­fer­ing a sea­so­nend­ing knee in­jury. He trans­ferred to Detroit Mercy, but was held up by the NCAA.

He got in his first game at Toledo, and made his first shot, a 3pointer. The Ann Ar­bor na­tive fin­ished with 16 points on 6-for-18 shoot­ing.

His pres­ence will be a wel­come one for the Ti­tans, who have had to rely heav­ily on the coach’s son, fresh­man An­toine Davis Jr., who’s still sec­ond in the na­tion at 27.4 points a game. But he’s strug­gled lately as teams have re­ally ze­roed in on him, and he’s shot just 32.5 per­cent over his last five games (40-for-123).

The Ti­tans con­tinue their sea­son with fifth and sixth straight games against Ohio foes, at home against Ohio on Dec. 15, and at Xavier on Dec. 21, be­fore start­ing league play.

Jose Juarez/Oak­land ath­let­ics

Braden Nor­ris be­gan the sea­son as a bit player for the Oak­land Golden Griz­zlies, but now has be­come the start­ing point guard.

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