FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After a season of challenges and a difficult losing streak, the lone senior on the Lumberjack basketball team this season has one goal in his final home game. Senior Durrell Norman wants to leave the Rolle Activity Center court on Saturday with a winning memory against UC Davis in the Sears BracketBusters game. Tipoff is at 7:05 p.m.
"Wins have been scarce this year so to actually leave the home court with a win would be very memorable," said Norman before practice this week. "You always want to go out with a win and a good taste in your mouth. It would make me feel very good about how things ended this year."
Norman joined the NAU program as a junior college transfer from Irvine Valley College last season. He joined a veteran team that would eventually win 19 games and earn a postseason berth in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
"A testament to his success is that he was the only new guy last season that played," said Assistant Coach Will Hensley. "Everyone else was returning and knew what they were doing. He was thrown into a mix and earned a starting role and produced. He has stepped that up this year into more of a leadership, scoring and rebounding role. He is doing more things."
After the departure of a strong senior class, Norman returned this season as the lone senior on the team entering the season. He has been a productive player in several ways. This season he has posted the top 11 scoring games of his career, recording double figures 13 times while posting two double-doubles. He is averaging 9.2 points and 5.9 rebounds, ranking 10th in the Big Sky. Overall he has reset single-game bests for points, rebounds, assists and steals during the season highlighted by an 18-point effort against Sam Houston State and 16 points in the upset victory at Arizona State.
"I will always remember the locker room after the ASU game and how excited everyone was with Stallon (Saldivar) hitting the game-winning shot," said Norman. "That game in itself is my favorite memory from my senior year, hanging out after that game."
While providing improved scoring punch, Norman has especially made his mark on the boards. Measuring at just 6 feet, four inches, he has led the Lumberjacks in rebounding and ranked among the top 10 in the league all season.
Hensley attributes his rebounding statistics to effort.
"He is not the biggest kid out there but he is the hardest working kid and has a lot of success to prove it," said Hensley. "Rebounding is all effort. I don't care if you are 5-10 or 6-10. If you want to get a rebound you can go get it. It is all about effort. He has done that consistently for two years."
Norman attributes his daily battles in practice for learning his skills around the boards.
"You have to want it," said Norman. "It helps that I have had guys around me like Austin Smith, Josh Lepley and Shane Johannsen bigger than me that have pushed me in practice and let me know it is not going to be easy. You have to work for it."
Norman has seen action in 57 career games with 43 starts in two seasons.
"It has been kind of a blur," said Norman. "I am excited but it is going to be a bittersweet moment definitely."
The Lumberjacks will face a UC Davis team that is 3-22 on the season with a 2-11 record in the Big West Conference. They are one of 14 winless teams on the road this season in Division I. The two schools last met in the 2005-06 season in Flagstaff, a game won by the Lumberjacks 78-50. NAU owns a 2-0 all-time mark against the Aggies.
Northern Arizona is in the BracketBuster field for the sixth time in school history and second consecutive season overall. NAU defeated Wichita State (2008), San Jose State (2007) and Cal Poly (2011) and fell to Tulsa (2005) and Western Kentucky (2006) in its previous five games in the event. The Big Sky Conference is participating in the BracketBusters Pool for the eighth straight season.
The game will feature the return of a local standout. Mustang guard Ryan Howley played at Sinagua High School in Flagstaff, graduating in 2008. He is averaging 6.7 points per game.
Fans can catch the game on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 FM The Big Talker in Flagstaff, Prescott and Sedona and online via The Big Talker website and their free Big Talker mobile app for Androids, Blackberries, iPhones and iPads. It will also be available online via Big Sky TV and NAU TV.
It is also being televised by NAU TV locally in Flagstaff (Suddenlink Channel 4). FOX Sports Arizona PLUS (DISH: 449, HD: 9519 DTV: 695, HD: 695-1) will show the game live at 7 p.m. FCS Pacific delay at 9 p.m.