Pelle Not Slowed

Nobody would have blamed Norvel Pelle for feeling a little sorry for himself.

Everyone plugged in to the prep basketball scene in California expected Frederick KC Price High School to be a force in Division IV this year, and one of the best teams in the state. The Knights returned a roster rich with high-major talent, so when Norvel Pelle transferred to Price for the start of his junior year, it seemed to push them even further over the top.

However, things didn't work out precisely as planned for the 6-foot-10, five-star prospect.

Head Coach Michael Lynch knew there was some question as to whether or not his newest talent would be eligible to play this season, but they opted to hope for the best. When practices kicked off in the fall, Pelle was an integral part of the Knights' game plan, as Lynch implemented a press-heavy system designed to funnel opposing ball-handlers directly to Pelle and his 6-foot-9 teammate, Cal-bound Richard Solomon.

But the season began without an official answer on Pelle's status from the California Interscholastic Federation on his status. Left without any alternative, Lynch and the Knights waited, riding talents like Solomon and 6-foot-6 wing Allen Crabbe – the eventual 2009-2010 California Gatorade Player of the Year, and University of California signee – to a fast start.

Then in January, word came down from the CIF. Pelle would be ineligible for competition due to his transfer.

"My heart went out for him," Lynch said. "It went out for his teammates and the program and everybody involved. We had an excellent season. I couldn't have asked for a better year, but it would have been even better if he were involved."

Rather than sulk, however, Pelle got to work. He hit the weight room with a vengeance and spent countless hours in the gym working on his skills.

During games, he planted himself next to Lynch on the bench, supporting his teammates and cheering every bucket as the Knights carved a path to a 33-3 record and the CIF Division IV State Championship.

"I actually had to get on him a little bit, because he was trying to help me coach a little more than I wanted him to," Lynch said, chuckling.

"I took it as a good experience," Pelle added. "I got to sit down, got to really talk to the guys that are coming back next year, and get to know Coach Lynch better on and off the court. It was a positive."

According to Lynch, Pelle's dedication has paid dividends in his game. While he has always been known as a ferocious defender - thanks to his excellent timing in blocking shots and elite-level athleticism – his offense is quickly catching up.

"This is what makes Norvel, in my opinion, special," Lynch said. "Is that with his God-given abilities and tenacity around the basket, he's just an absolute beast. But he can face up, he can handle the ball, he puts the ball on the floor well and he has an outstanding 15-foot jump shot."

Those abilities have already drawn a great deal of attention from college coaches – not just on the West Coast, but nationwide. Currently the #4 ranked power forward in the Class of 2011 by Scout.com, Pelle owns scholarship offers from a host of schools, including Arizona, Arizona State, California, Connecticut, Kansas, Miami, Oregon, Texas, UCLA, USC and Washington.

Several schools have made trips to Price in recent weeks, to make sure Pelle knows they're interested. Among those schools are Arizona, Washington, Cal, Maryland and Kansas.

Despite the attention, Pelle isn't stressing his recruitment, and doesn't have a time-table for a decision.

"I'm taking things pretty slow," he said.

With his junior year nearly wrapped up, Pelle is ready to make a splash in his final season of AAU basketball, as a member of the LA-based Team Odom.

Right now, he's just glad to be back on the court.

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