Norvell Next in Line

Simeon graduated a talented group of seniors after last year's fourth-consecutive state championship. Now a young group of players have to reload at Simeon, including guard Zack Norvell.

Simeon has been the definition of success in Illinois high school basketball the last four years. The Wolverines did what only one other team, Peoria Manual, was able to accomplish when they won their fourth straight state title.

The group that went through was nothing short of stellar, but now with their entire starting five from last season graduated, Simeon is having to rebuild with the next generation of hoopers. Luckily for them, the talent didn't all graduate and several good prospects are now taking the torch and running with it, including sophomore Zack Norvell.

Norvell flashed a bit of what he could do this spring in Highland, but for the most part, he's been spending time going against last year's group and in the gym improving his game.

"I've just been playing a lot," he said, "I stay in the gym and things like that. There are a lot of distractions, but I just try to keep playing ball."

Norvell and his teammates at Simeon will be expected to step into some big shoes, and with point guard Jaylon Tate now at Illinois, one of those voids is at the point guard position. While Norvell isn't a true point guard, he knows he'll be asked to man the position from time to time.

"I go through dribbling cones and my handling is getting better," he said. "This year at Simeon I'm going to be playing a lot of point guard, so I want to make sure I'm ready to run my team and things like that."

Perhaps the best way to learn how to assume the roles of last year's team leaders is to watch what they did. Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but for Simeon it also might be a key to success with such a young team.

"I've been watching a lot of old tape of our team that won state last year," Norvell said. "I just see what they did and what I have to do to follow in those footsteps and have success."

Norvell knows that the team has to come together off the court as much as they do on the court. Again, they're looking at the model their predecessors put in place.

"We do a lot of the things they did," he said. "We hang around with each other a lot and that helps."

Personally, Norvell has been working on his consistency. With a greater role and responsibility, his teammates and coaches will be looking to him to be able to deliver when asked, so consistency is a big point of emphasis for him.

"My consistency with my shot is much better," he said. "Last year I'd make a shot then miss two, then make two and miss another two, so I'm just trying to get more consistent and I see myself already making more shots."

Norvell has built a bit of a reputation of being that "lefty shooter" early in his high school career. If his time at Simeon turns out anything like fellow lefty Kendrick Nunn's did, he should be on his way to great things.

"Coach Rob loves a lefty," he joked. "I guess he likes having a couple lefty guys on his "team.

There's no doubt that Norvell is fully aware of not only the expectations but also the challenges that lie ahead of he and his team. It's pretty simple in his eyes though. They have to step up and take ownership of the team.

"We have a lot of challenges and obstacles ahead of us," Norvell said. "We have a really young team and none of the guys on the team now had a huge role on the team last year the way the seniors did. So we want to come together and we know we have to play."

Recruiting starts early for high school basketball players, and while Norvell hasn't seen a huge inrush of offers quite yet, he could be on the brink of a few.

"Right now I just have an offer from Bradley," he said, "but as far as interest, I have Kansas, Michigan State, Creighton, North Carolina State, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Northwestern, and Illinois. I think Kansas, Creighton, and Illinois could be close to offering."

Illinois is a school that's recruited and signed a few of Norvell's teammates, so he knows the program well. Proximity to home and familiarity with the players, coaches, and school are all big selling points.

"It's just a lot like home," he said. "Also they're in the Big Ten. Plus the staff is like a family down there."

Like many other recruits have stated, the style of play is also something that appeals to a player like Norvell.

"They get out and run," Norvell said. "The guards play hard and run the show. It's an up and down game and they're intense all around."

Norvell took a couple trips early this fall around the Midwest. Despite being a sophomore, he's already been pretty active on the visit trail.

"I went to Kansas for late night at the Phog and I went to Michigan State for a visit," he said.

Norvell also took a visit to Illinois. Aside from coach Groce, Chicago native Paris Parham has been something that's stood out to the fellow Chicago athlete.

"I've been talking with Coach Parham the most," he said. "He's really cool. He acts like one of us sometimes. He's really outgoing and has a lot of jokes. He knows how it is in Chicago and all we have to go through. He can relate to us on that."


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