Norman: Truly a Longhorn leader both on and off the court
While University of Texas women's basketball patrons never have been to class with senior point guard and tri-captain Nina Norman, Professor Michael Lauderdale says they don't have to in order to know how she is in a classroom.
"Just as she is on the court," said Lauderdale, a social work teacher. "That same passion and aggressiveness that makes Nina the player she is also is what makes her the student she is."
Norman, a senior from Jersey Village High School in Houston, is a corporate communications major who will earn her degree in four years.
And that means a great deal to Norman.
"You can't play a sport forever," she began. "You have to have that degree. Your education is important. You can't get anywhere without it."
That's a message Norman delivers as part of Professor Lauderdale's "Leadership in the Community" class, whose Longhorn Leaders project works with at-risk middle school students.
"We're working with students at Bedichek Middle School this semester," Lauderdale said. "To watch Nina with those students is great. Her high visibility as an athlete gets their attention. Her message gets through."
Dr. Randa Ryan, senior associate athletics director for student services, said her ability to connect with middle school students is just one of the special things about Norman, who won the 2004-05 Jill Sterkel Leadership Award.
"What she is going to do, finish her corporate communications degree in four years while playing basketball, is a wonderful accomplishment," Ryan said. "Once Nina focused on what she wanted to do, she had the resolve to get things done."
Lauderdale said Norman is "solid, someone I can count on for anything."
"And what I like most about her," he continued, "is that she lives life as she plays -- full out."
For Norman, who entered this season ranked ninth all-time in assists and has started 68 of her 98 games at Texas, she says her mother made education a priority for her when she was young.
"I always knew how important school was," Norman said.
All of that is what she imparts on the middle school students she sees.
"Athletes are not quite rock stars to these kids," Lauderdale said, "but they are close. And someone like Nina makes a connection with these seventh graders." (Read all about what Norman is doing as part of the Longhorn Leaders by going to .)
In addition to Norman talking to these middle school students, Lauderdale also has an Austin Police Department officer accompany her.
"Nina's relating to the officer in front of the students during class helps break down some barriers the students may feel towards law enforcement," Lauderdale explained. "The students feel if Nina has a rapport with the officer that there is no reason they can't do the same."
That's the same kind of leadership Norman gives Coach Jody Conradt and her teammates.