It wasn’t too long ago that Gonzaga’s shooting guard Zach Norvell Jr. became a college basketball sensation. In last year’s March Madness, he put the icing on the cake with a game-winning three to defeat the 13th seeded UNCG Spartans.
Since then, the 6’5 guard has taken off. For the Bulldogs this season, Norvell is averaging 15.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 3.4 APG. This is higher than last year’s average of 12.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.3 APG. For Norvell, his focus is on becoming a better basketball player and making his team a threat come March.
“My mindset is to always be aggressive,” Norvell stated.
Norvell Grew Up in Basketball Family
From the moment Zach Norvell Jr. was born, basketball would be his destiny. Born and raised in Chicago, Norvell Jr.’s father, Zachary, would often bring his son to the gym so he can learn important basketball skills and to avoid a dark path.
“I try to teach him to be focused — out here in Chicago with all of the violence — on life,” Zachary said. “Worry about playing basketball. Worry about school work. I try to keep him with me. He’s either at Simeon playing basketball or he’s over at DuSable. I want to keep him off the streets and let him know there’s more in life than hanging out and partying.”
The experience of learning from his Dad and staying on the right course proved monumental for young Zach. He would attend Simeon High School, and it was a foregone conclusion he would be a top basketball player. When he attended one of Simeon’s open gyms, coach Robert Smith was immediately impressed.
“He feels like he belongs out there,” Smith said. “That’s a good thing. Playing against (Tate and Kendrick Nunn) every day kind of brings him down to earth, too. Sometimes he has good days, and sometimes he has bad days. It’s a good challenge.”
Norvell Jr. Becoming Anchor for Gonzaga Offense
The success at Simeon translated into college for Zach Norvell Jr. After being a redshirt his first year, Norvell Jr. made an immediate impact for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. He plays off the dribble superbly, either stepping back for a three-pointer or using his speed to drive to the basket. His athletic qualities are second to none and have made him the anchor of a Gonzaga offense that consists of Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie.
Gonzaga’s offense is one of the most prolific in the country. Through 16 games played, the Bulldogs are ranked second in scoring, averaging 92.2 points per game. No better game to look at to see how Gonzaga’s offense works is Thursday’s dominant 73-55 win over Loyola Marymount. The Bulldogs took advantage of Loyola’s mistakes, getting fast break points on transition and in the post. Norvell put up 17 points and the Loyola defense could not keep up with Gonzaga’s ability to move the ball.
With a high scoring team like Gonzaga, it was impressive to watch the Bulldogs play stingy defense. They limited Loyola to shooting only 36 percent and forced 11 turnovers. This impressed Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, who is trying to put his team back in the AP Top 25 after back to back losses.
“I was pleased by the defensive effort,” Few said.
With March slowly approaching, it is safe to not count out the Bulldogs. And Zach Norvell Jr., whose projected to be drafted early in the NBA, will be a pivotal piece to the team’s success. If he can continue to make his shots and improve on defense, he is going to be a star player.
“I was able to get to the basket and knock down some shots tonight, but credit my teammates for finding me,” says Norvell Jr.