More Northreens, please?
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 07:02
The West Virginia men’s basketball team may be in the middle of its first Big 12 conference win streak in school history, but anyone who has followed the team this year knows the Mountaineers are still far from hitting on all cylinders.
One of the most glaring issues this season, for me, has been the utter reluctance of sophomore forward Kevin Noreen to shoot the ball, especially from long range.
I’ll be perfectly honest, Noreen is certainly not your typical shooter at first glance – he stands 6-foot-10, weighs about 250 pounds, doesn’t wow you physically and even has a bit of a unique release.
But even with these potential encumbrances, Noreen has proven to be much more than a marginally effective shooter, especially for his size.
The problem is pulling teeth is less difficult than getting Noreen to hoist up more than a couple shots each game.
This ultimately boils down to a confidence problem, in my opinion, but it’s still hard to imagine the sophomore wouldn’t have confidence, and especially in his shot, after the fantastic prep basketball career that Noreen enjoyed back in Minneapolis, Minn.
Not only was Noreen named Mr. Basketball of the state of Minnesota in his senior season at Minnesota Transitions Charter School in 2010, he broke the state’s scoring record with more than 4,000 career points and led his team to a state championship, all while averaging more than 40 points a game.
However, it’s rare today to see that side of Noreen in play.
Noreen has taken just 11 total 3-point shots in 366 minutes on the floor this year, and not surprisingly, he’s made nearly half of them.
I’m not the only one this season clamoring for Noreen to shoot the ball more, either.
After a season-high 6 for 10, including 2 of 3 from the perimeter in the win against then-undefeated Virginia Tech, his teammates and head coach were literally gushing to the media how confident they were in their teammate Noreen to keep taking shots when he has them.
During an interview in January 2010, Noreen’s high school coach said Noreen was "a player who is capable of getting 40 points on 20 shots or even less than 20 shots," referring to Noreen’s immense efficiency – but I couldn’t get past the simple fact that Noreen actually used to take more than 20 shots per game in high school. It seems like an absolutely staggering statistic, because Noreen has only taken 37 total shots in 21 games this year.
Now, I’m not asking that Noreen hoists up 20 shots per game like he did in high school or try to lead the Mountaineers in scoring, but the truth of the matter is that Noreen is much too good of a set shooter, especially from beyond the arc, to have only attempted 11 3-pointers all season.
Noreen needs to start taking at least four or five shots from the field each game, because it’s an easy opportunity to add some much-needed offense for the Mountaineers, who are 7-1 when they score 70 or more, and a woeful 3-10 when they score 69 or less.
The worst-case scenario would be that opposing defenses eventually start adjusting somewhat, maybe moving someone a little closer to Noreen when he’s on the perimeter, which would actually benefit the rest of the team by
providing them with valuable additional spacing on the floor.
And the best case?
Kevin Noreen could exploit much more of his basketball potential than we’ve seen from him on a consistent basis this season. That doesn’t mean he should abandon his notorious hustle and rebounding mentality, just be prepared to square up and shoot when he catches the ball on the perimeter, and there isn’t a defender within 15 feet of him.
If he can do this and begin to consistently shoot the ball with confidence, I honestly think, Big Sweat can become a big-shot maker down this critical conference stretch for West Virginia.