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Norris Cole: from CSU star to NBA stardom

March 22, 2012

By Jim Berdysz

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.” For former Cleveland State Viking and current Miami Heat point guard Norris Cole, hard work and the continuous commitment to succeed has led him to fulfill his dream of playing in the NBA.

“Life in the NBA has been very special to me,” Cole said. “Especially when I had to work my way to get here for four years, it’s a nice pay off.”
After Viking fans watched Cole shine both on and off the court just one year ago, the 23-year-old Dayton native has taken the basketball world by storm in his first NBA season.

Cole’s dream to play under the bright lights of the NBA began in June 2011, when he was chosen as the 28th overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. After being traded the same night from Chicago to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cole was quickly traded again, landing with the Heat.

“It happened so fast, but I knew I was coming to Miami,” Cole said. “I was very excited. There was so much pandemonium in the house. All the people who have been with me from day one, all my family and friends were there with me so that made it really special.”

Although it would take five months for the NBA lockout to come to an end in December, Cole finally saw his first NBA action on Christmas Day against the Dallas Mavericks. For the former Horizon League Player and Defensive Player of the Year, things essentially came full circle, as Cole received his first basketball hoop also on the Christmas holiday almost two decades ago.

The rookie point guard would go onto score seven points against Dallas in his first NBA game, only to breakout in a big way a couple days later in Miami’s home opener against the Boston Celtics.

In front of his new hometown fans in Miami, Cole went on to steal the show against Boston scoring 14 of his career high 20 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Heat to an easy victory.

“I think it took people by surprise,” Cole said. “They didn’t really know much about me, and it gave me the opportunity to really show what I can do.”

People may have not known who exactly Norris Cole was before his 20-point performance, but it didn’t take long for his name to spread all across the country. His name appeared in bold letters on the front page of sports section in the Miami Herald the next day, and Cole even became a national trending topic on Twitter just hours after the game.

“I think I was just prepared and ready for my number to be called upon,” Cole said. “I felt like that was a great transition for me. I was ready, I was confident, and the team had confidence in me.”

Not only has Cole had success with the Heat in his rookie season, but he has done it while sharing the court with two of his favorite players growing up in LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.

“I love it, it’s a true dream come true,” Cole said. “People talk about living out their dreams and to play with two of the best players in the world, two people who I looked up to while in high school, it’s a lot of fun.”

In 44 games this season, Cole is averaging 7.5 points per game and shooting 41 percent from the floor. He has become a force off the Heat bench scoring double-digit points in 16 games this year, and scoreing at least one point or more in 42 of 44 games.

Just last month, Cole was chosen by NBA great Shaquille O’Neal to take part in the Rising Stars Challenge as part of NBA All-Star Weekend. Once again the rookie stood out, scoring 18 points and collecting six assists in 24 minutes of the exhibition game.

“It meant a lot,” Cole said. “To be recognized as one of the rising stars in this league, it shows I’m a hard worker. Hopefully I can make it back to All-Star weekend as an All-Star one day.”

He also had a chance to come back to Cleveland this past February as a member of the Heat, playing at Quicken Loans Arena against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cole made sure to make a stop on the CSU campus.

“I came back to the office and talked with the coaches and my old teammates,” Cole said. “It was very comfortable coming back.”

A typical game day for the six-foot-two Cole consists of a morning shootaround and eating two meals, before taking a nap and getting to the arena early before the game.
With the wear and tear a long season can bring, sleep becomes a priority for Cole on non-game days.

“I also play Xbox, talk to my friends, go to the movies and enjoy walking around outside and being around people.”

To make the jump from college to the pros, Cole certainly put in work.

“I put in a lot of hard work at practice with the coaches,” Cole said. “I did extra work on my own to be the best well rounded person I can be.”

He also had a message for all CSU students:

“Just work hard every day and be committed to your craft whatever it is. Whether it’s a sport or in the academic realm, be committed and put your time in.”

As a special request from Cole, he also wanted to tell everyone at CSU, especially the Health Sciences department he said hello.

With the hard work and commitment Cole has shown throughout his career, there’s no question he has become a role model for us all, both as an athlete and even more as a person.