Monday, January 13, 2014

Norris Cole's legacy powerful in the Horizon League

YOUNGSTOWN – Norris Cole represents the perfect story for coaches selling the Horizon League to teenagers.

Lightly recruited out of Dayton, Cole flourished at Cleveland State, where he started 105 straight games and scored 1,978 career points. The Chicago Bulls used the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft on Cole. The Bulls then immediately shipped him to the Miami Heat.

Cole now owns two NBA championship rings. He's a regular in the Heat's star-laced rotation. He also remains a big part of Horizon League lore.

Following his team's deflating 67-66 loss to Youngstown State on Monday, Cleveland State coach Gary Waters dropped Cole's name when describing Penguin senior guard Kendrick Perry.

“He's the Norris Cole-caliber player in the league this year,” Waters said.

Perry had already left the interview room when Waters restored to a Cole reference. Here's guessing Perry grinned when informed of Waters' flattering comments. There's no bigger praise in the Horizon League than being compared to Cole.

Perry was spectacular in key moments Monday, propelling Youngstown State to one of the biggest wins in coach Jerry Slocum's nine-year tenure.

He scored 14 points in the last 6:19 of the first half and 12 points in the last 6:06 of the second half. Perry finished with a game-high 31 points as the Penguins improved to 11-8 overall and 2-2 in Horizon League play. He also played snug defense when his team needed it most.

Before sending Perry to the Thunder or Spurs, let's examine some of the differences between Cole and Perry.

Cole is 6-foot-2. Perry is 6-0. Cole is a point guard. Perry plays shooting guard. Cole forces his ways into tough spots against larger bodies. Perry accelerates and elevates – when he has space.

NBA analysts are lukewarm on Perry's future. DraftExpress rates Perry as the 46th best senior prospect in the 2014 draft. Never mind all the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and international players who might enter the draft.

Perry is an outstanding player. He might be the best player in the Horizon League this season. He lifted his team to a huge win Monday.

But Cole joins Detroit's Willie Green (1999-2003) and Ray McCallum (2010-13) and Butler's Gordon Hayward (2008-10) and Shelvin Mack (2008-11) as one of five former Horizon League standouts to appear in an NBA game this season. His career trajectory will be difficult for Perry or any other current Horizon League player to duplicate.

– Guy Cipriano | @newsheraldguy


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June 1, 2014 at 12:04 AM 

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