Oakand’s Norris has become the can’t-miss kid
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
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.”
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.
Braden Norris began the season as a bit player for the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, but now has become the starting point guard.