Thursday, August 22, 2013

Throwback Thursday: MOUNTain Of Change

Emmitsburg, Md., is approximately four hours and 40 minutes by car from Julian Norfleet's Virginia Beach, Va., stomping grounds.

Virginia Beach is where the gumstick-slim guard and his adroit lefty sling shot garnered respect on the sun-baked playground courts from which household name Lefty Driesell and former Maryland star John Gilchrist emerged.

Scanning the pin-drop quiet Emmitsburg campus at night, the Mount St. Mary's University lead guard feels the summertime silence.

It's not a familiar feeling as Virginia Beach is known to stir quite the racket.

With the buffet line of beach bums, the endless games of flag football and sand soccer, and the 5-on-5 basketball runs that intensify during the summer, the dull moment is hard to find.

The scantily-clad, tan-seeking women, the strips of bars and oceanfront restaurants, where tourists quickly find all their money spent on getting bent, also get the joint jumping.

Now it's a new summer environment rife with changes.

What does Norfleet know about change?

This past season, the former trigger man adapted to a change of coaching staff, a major change in the offensive tempo and an immediate role change following the untimely dismissal of veteran, hard-slashing guard Lamar Trice. It was Trice who Norfleet had the chore of guarding during daunting practices as a freshman. 

He credits Trice for molding him into a tougher and more physical defender. 

Trice was dismissed by then-head coach Robert Burke in December, who cited an undisclosed violation of team rules.

While ascending this mountain of rapid change, Norfleet additionally underwent a metamorphosis as a player. Once purely shootist who navigated the baseline in spot-up format, Norfleet orchestrated the offense and enhanced his driving game.

"I think I had to transform my game from being a knock-down shooter to being more of a scorer," Norfleet said. "I think that was a big change because I became the focal point of a lot of defensive schemes of opponents. So, I had to find ways to score other than shooting the basketball."

How did he manage that?

Simply by supplementing his downtown shooting with forays to the bucket and an array of floaters, Norfleet added new facets to his overall scoring package.

During a 69-66 overtime loss to Quinnipiac on Jan.26, Norfleet bagged 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting. A 23-point outburst during a 67-62 loss to Robert Morris back on Feb.4 jump-started a six-game stretch in which Norfleet paced The Mount with 18 points per game.

Reaping the rewards of extra hours in the weight room and adding muscle to a spindly 165-pound frame would bolster Norfleet's value. It's a change that could catapult the incoming junior into NEC's upper crust of scorers.

Under new head coach Jamion Christian - who supplanted the cagey Burke in late March - The Mount is predicated on an end-to-end, souped-up attack. Thorough ball-pressure defense is also a staple in Christian's system.

"I think the uptempo style is going to help us a lot," said Norfleet, who averaged a team-best 13.7 points and 4.8 rebounds and who doled out 66 assists last season. "It's going to allow us all to get more shots around for everyone else and really spread the wealth."

Norfleet's career-long mentor, former Penn State forward Stanley Pringle, was also a fixture on the Virginia Beach courts.

Pringle propelled Norfleet's development when he was getting his baller's teeth cut. Norfleet recalls the numerous mano-e-mano battles with the slightly stronger Pringle, which helped Norfleet gain a savvy that's become emblematic of a DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) guard.

"I sort of grew up cherishing his (Pringle's) game," Norfleet said.

If Norfleet continues to thrive, young hoops fans may one day say the same about him.