By Parijat Jha

Basketball player finds his own place on the team, despite not always grabbing the attention of fans and media

Often, when sports fans attend games they come for the player in the spotlight. What can be forgotten is that sometimes the most important players are the ones in the background. One such athlete on the UAHS mens basketball team is senior A.J. Norman.

Many fans from last year may not recognize the name, but Norman has been playing for at least one of the high school’s teams since his freshman year. He said he has played basketball ever since his elementary years.

“I started for a local YMCA team, and then I played for the Golden Bear Basketball Club youth basketball program in UA,” Norman said. “Then I moved on to play advanced levels at Jones, and AAU basketball.”

With a lengthy list of prerequisites, one would think that 6’ 4”, 235 lb. Norman would surely be a starter; however, this is not the case. Last year Norman was placed on the bench as he played behind senior captain Jeff Vaugn, a first-team all-conference center. Despite this disappointment he continued to work hard both on and off the court.

“I try and always keep a positive attitude. No matter what I always enjoy being on the team,” Norman said. “Obviously it is disappointing not playing, but it just made me work harder. I just kept hitting the weights and coming to all the work outs.”

Head coach Tim Casey has noted this work ethic. According to Casey, the fact Norman has stuck in the program all four years means a lot. It speaks volumes of his character, and his upbringing. Norman has always been one of the most determined players on the team, he said.

Casey indicated that such work ethic can be hard to find in any element of life. Leaders such as Norman set a good example for others. Young players coming into the program, such as freshmen Kevin Vanatta and Logan Richter, not only have their senior brothers to look up to, but hard-working Norman as well. Senior captain Brian Sullivan is often the one who captures the attention of the crowd and media, but he too has noted what Norman brings to the team.

“A.J. is the ‘glue guy’ on our team. Players at all levels know him,” Sullivan said. “He helps keep the team together, and that chemistry directly reflects our play on the court.”

On the court, Norman uses his large frame to open up opportunities for the leading scorers on the teams. Setting multiple screens while huffing and puffing up and down the court may not seem ideal to most athletes, but in order to win every team has to have such players.

Norman is not only a leader on the court. During the off season he leads Spirit Club as well. He takes his duties quite seriously and leads the school in cheering on their peers. Co-leader of Spirit Club, senior Adriane Ghidotti, helps Norman lead the school in cheer.

“A.J. comes up to all of us with so many great ideas, and no one helps spread the word like him,” Ghidotti said. “He is always one to follow through on his commitments.”

According to Casey, in sports there are no guarantees; this being the case, many players get disappointed and quit. The players who are willing to stick with it and root on their teammates, whether or not they are playing, are the ones who can sometimes help the most. In moments of despair, when there are injuries or bad calls, these are the players who help lift the team’s spirit. Players such as Norman step into the spotlight, not to score the game-winning field goal, but to lift their teammates’ chins when they are down.

Norman said he hopes to have a chance to show his talents on the floor this year, but will not be let down either way. He said he looks to help his team any way he can and will continue cheering on his teammates.