Different players. Different people. Different in about every

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Different players. Different people. Different in about every imaginable way.

And the change is all for the better ...

Last week, the Golden Flashes were preparing to play St. Joseph's of Indiana, a Division II team they thoroughly overmatched at every position. While many veterans would be practically drooling over this prized opportunity to pad stats, Norvell took a different approach.

Instead of firing at will he took one shot, a 3-pointer. Nothing but net.

"I gave coach (Gary) Waters a call and told him this would be a good game to use to get our younger players some experience," said Norvell. "When I was on the court, I just wanted to feed our inside guys."

"Ed could have went out and shot 10 times," said Waters, "but he was happy to just play defense and pass the ball. He's the most unselfish basketball player I've ever been around, and I say that with all sincerity. He truly plays every game for his team to win."

It's hard to imagine the 6-foot-2 senior guard making that phone call a few years back.

Norvell came to Kent after a sensational career at Murray-Wright High School in Detroit, where he earned a reputation as a prolific scorer and deft passer. He flourished in Murray-Wright's up-tempo, pressing style of play, scoring 36 points to lead his squad to victory in the state championship game his junior year and averaging eight assists per game as a senior.

Just turn him loose and he'd produce, seemingly at any level of play.

But Dave Grube wasn't much for letting players run free.

Grube was Norvell's coach his freshman year, and he believed in half-court, slow-paced basketball. But even though this style didn't seem to mesh with Norvell, the rookie point guard still averaged 10.7 points and 4.7 assists per game and earned a spot on the Mid-American Conference All-Freshman team.

Grube was ousted after the 1995-96 season and replaced by Waters, who immediately promised to turn the Flashes into a pressing, running bunch. Guess who was expected to benefit most from this major change in styles?

Well, it hasn't happened. At least not on the scoring sheet.

In 65 games under Waters, Norvell is averaging just under 10 points per game.

"Everyone thinks he hasn't benefited because he hasn't scored all that much," said Waters. "But where he has benefited is in the assist column. He'll leave here as this school's all-time assist leader, and that wouldn't have happened in any other system.

"What Ed truly likes to do on offense is get people the ball. That's his strength. People have tried to make him a scorer, but that's really not what he is."

Norvell needs just 10 more assists to surpass Anthony Grier's career record of 503 even though he was moved out of the point-guard slot last season.

"I'd like to have the ball in my hands more, but I'd rather have it at crucial times," said Norvell. "My role on this team isn't to score, and I have no problem with that. You just have to forget about the past. Everybody was a scorer in high school ... it's just one of the sacrifices I'm making."

But not the biggest: Ed Norvell the scorer is now a stopper of all things.

"We believed he was the best defender in the MAC last year, and we feel the same way this year," said Waters. "He's versatile, a guy that can defend anyone from a point guard to a power forward. And he doesn't just hold you back, he shuts you down. He held Cleveland State's (second-leading scorer) Theo Dixon to just three shots last Saturday ... the kid couldn't even get a shot off.

"Ed's defense is the primary reason we're 8-1 right now."

Norvell is a prolific offensive player's worst nightmare. His upper body is muscle upon muscle, supplying the necessary strength to defend taller players, and he also has the speed and quickness to stay with smaller guards.

But most importantly, he flat-out loves to defend.

"I've always loved defense," said Norvell. "In high school, our defense generated our offense. We had six different presses and swarmed people all over the court, just like we do now at Kent. This is like going back to my high school days."

Still, defense has never carried as much weight in Norvell's mind as it does now.

"Now I'm a stopper," said Norvell. "I'd rather hold my man to half his average than score 20 points myself. It's gotten to the point where, when I look at a box score, the first thing I look for is to see how many points my man scored. That's how I get my satisfaction, by shutting him down.

"A couple of years ago, I'd have been looking at points and assists. But that's changed."

So Ed Norvell the player has changed dramatically. But so has Ed Norvell the person.

Norvell has suffered through some turbulent times at Kent. Academic eligibility has been a major concern on numerous occasions. He was suspended for a game due to an incident that occurred during the team's trip to Hawaii last December and was nearly kicked off the team.

Now, he's a team captain.

"And you have to be a leader to be a captain on this team," said Waters. "I didn't make him a leader my first two years because a leader leads by example. Ed wasn't doing that before, but he's done it this year.

"He's a better person. He's on track to graduate. He's reaching goals off the court because those things are important to him now."

Success has been spotty in the past during Norvell's collegiate career, but everything is falling into place in this his senior season. The Flashes are 8-1 and raising eyebrows thanks in large part to their stopper, a vastly different Ed Norvell, whose game is finally clicking both on and off the court.

"From the time I came here to today, it's a complete 90 degree turnaround," said Waters. "Socially, in the classroom, and as an athlete, he's changed. Watching his total development on and off the court has made the time I've spent here coaching enjoyable."

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