Norris Cole approaches the 3-point line at the same spot he stood last January against Milwaukee. Cleveland State was down by one with 6.9 seconds to go in the game in which he'd scored his 1,000th point as a Viking.
"I stepped into it and nailed it like pow," says the 6-foot-2 senior before shooting. "Just like that."
Cole has been undeniably impressive for CSU. As a sophomore, he contributed 22 points to the team's shocking NCAA Tournament disposal of fourth-seeded Wake Forest. Last year, he rose as coach Gary Waters' leader and was named first team All-Horizon League.
But today, his HORSE opponent stands at a mere 5 feet 7 inches.
He's half-horrified, half-amused as I take the ball to recreate his game-winning three. "Uh oh, I might laugh," he says before correcting me. "Spread your fingers out." But it's no use: The ball sails pathetically. Almost in sync, we both say, "H."
Any hope that the clutch shooter will let me win or take it easy is lost. O, R and S follow.
Cole's ultracompetitive nature is just one trait that's made him a star guard. As a standout high school quarterback, he honed communication and decision-making skills. He values the intelligence stressed by his parents, who once took away the ball when his grades slipped. Seven years later he finished high school as salutatorian. And with two state championships at Dayton's Dunbar High and the Vikings' 2009 Horizon League title, he knows how to win.
Taking 500 shots a day, about 30 from 16 spots around the court, doesn't hurt either.
Cole sets up a shot just as it happened against Florida A&M early last season. He put up a career-high 38 that night and went 13 for 13 at the free-throw line, where he shoots 80 percent. It's another easy three for him and a game-ending E for me.
"That's alright," he kindly assures me. "You don't play basketball."
Yeah, I'll leave that to him.
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