Off Court with Nina Norman
On a team that boasts a few vocal leaders each with very strong personalities, junior guard Nina Norman has chosen to play a less vocal role on the team, which best aligns with her laid-back personality. Norman's quiet on-court demeanor can be attributed to her realization, upon playing at the collegiate level, that basketball is a team sport and no one player should become bigger than the team itself.
"In high school, I was a real flashy player who always wanted a lot of attention," Norman recalled. "When I got to college, I realized that it was not necessary for me to act this way and that I needed to calm down."
Even though Norman no longer actively seeks the attention she once desired, her talent and presence on the court certainly have not gone unnoticed.
Norman is an athlete who assistant coach Travis Mays calls a "gamer," in that when the game gets big, Norman is someone you want to have the ball in their hands. And Mays, former UT men's basketball All-America great at guard who went on to NBA and European basketball star status, should know.
"When Nina plays, she has about five or six gears," Mays stated. "Some players can go slow or they can go fast. Nina is a player who can change speeds and it is this ability that allows her to do things other players cannot do. She has a lot of talent and that is what makes her special."
This season Norman has posted five games with five or more assists, four games with five or more rebounds, and she is fifth in overall scoring (5.5 ppg). Norman also recorded a season-high 16-point performance against No. 3 Baylor on Jan. 8, and entering today's game against Oklahoma State, the 5-8 junior has a Big 12 scoring average of 8.0 points per game. Norman also leads the Longhorns in assists (48, 3.7 apg average).
Norman has quietly contributed to the team by demonstrating her continued efforts to work hard and desire to overcome all setbacks.
"Since the beginning of the season, Nina has suffered some minor and nagging injuries that have kept her from playing at the level she is capable of playing," Mays said. "However, she has continued to work quietly and get herself back to the Nina Norman that we know. She has demonstrated a great work ethic and I respect that a lot."
The manner in which Norman presents herself on the court is a reflection of her off-court personality as well. Norman admits that she is a fairly quiet and laid-back person, but when she is around friends and people she knows, she talks a lot.
"My teammates would describe me as blunt and very straight-forward," Norman admitted. "I am a very open-minded person and I like being around open-minded people. Most things people wouldn't say - I would. I really do talk a lot, but you don't see that on the court."
"You would never hear her before you see her," Mays said of Norman. "Nina could be sitting in the corner and until you get up close to her and hear what she has to say, or if she's even saying anything at all, you'd never know how funny she is and how much she really has to say."
If you did have an opportunity to speak with Norman away from the court, you would find her to be quietly comical, appreciative and generous.
One thing you would discover is her passion for movies. Growing up in a tough neighborhood in Houston, Norman's parents would make her stay close at home in the evenings, and during that time she would watch movies on cable TV. She admits that comedies are her favorite genre, but also enjoys a good scary movie every once in a while. In the Texas media guide this year, she showed how much she loves films, naming "www.upcomingmovies.com" as her favorite website.
"My favorite movie right now would have to be "DodgeBall," Norman laughingly revealed. "It's hilarious and I pretty much watch it every day. If a good movie is coming out, I like to see it on the day it is released in the theaters. But, I also like to rent movies and kick back at home with my friends."
In addition to movies, you might also uncover Norman's love for R&B, especially the music of the late, Aaliyah.
"Aaliyah is my favorite artist of all-time," Norman said with a smile. "I really love her music because I can relate to a lot of her songs. It wasn't just her music, but the way she carried herself. She was always real down-to-earth and never let fame change her."
A skill quite unique to Norman is her fluency in sign language, which has provided her the opportunity to volunteer her time working with the deaf community in Austin. The task seems fitting for someone who will only speak openly to friends or people she knows.
"I really enjoy working with deaf people," Norman admitted. "I've met a lot of really great individuals and the experiences have made me look at life in a different way."
It takes an open-minded person to look at life in different ways. Norman has already demonstrated this ability in the approach she has taken with her role on the team - changing from someone wanting to be in the spotlight to someone who prefers to stay in the background. Norman may not currently be the most vocal on the team, but the time may come when she has to step up and take the lead.
"Nina is currently in training to be a vocal leader," Mays said. "Next year she is going to need to be that kind of leader because we're going to have a lot of talented freshmen who are going to need to understand how the game is played at this level."
Norman may change her on-court presence in the future, for the sake of the team, but she is not one to revert to wanting to be back in the spotlight. Her laid-back personality will help her remain the type of person that you would see before you would hear.