Wright State’s Norris a reluctant shooter but is contributing heavily in other ways

Raiders face Abilene Christian on Monday in Vegas 4 tournament

FAIRBORN — Wright State players came to the wrong place if they expected to be coddled by coach Scott Nagy. He gives blunt assessments and never tries to sugarcoat it.

But that’s nothing new for starting sophomore guard Keaton Norris. He’s been getting helpful feedback for years from someone who knows his game even better than Nagy — his father.

Brett Norris is certainly qualified to provide critiques. A regular at Raider games, he’s in his eighth year as coach at Hilliard Bradley and has a 165-37 record, having once gone 65-0 over a four-year stretch in conference play.

Keaton is known for his high basketball IQ, which comes from growing up around the game. And more than just being able handle any criticism from his dad, he welcomes it.

“It’s always nice to have a guy, whether it’s a good game or bad game, to ask what I can work on and do better,” he said. “I know I have coaches around here that can help me with the same stuff, but it’s nice when I’ve got my dad, who can help me throughout the season.”

Asked if his father is hard on him at times, he said: “Oh yeah, he’s tough. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Norris is hearing pretty much the same thing from all sides: shoot the ball. Or rather, SHOOT THE BALL!!!

He wouldn’t have earned a starting spot on a loaded team if he didn’t have a well-rounded skill set. But while he’s shown he can be an outside threat — he had the team’s best 3-point percentage the last season (38.7) while making the fourth-most 3′s (29) — he’s more comfortable setting others up.

“I’d like to see Keaton get going a little bit,” Nagy said. “We’ve watched him do it in practice, and he’s tremendous.

“When you look at Trey (Calvin) and Amari (Davis), guys who are high-volume shooters, I think he’s trying not to do that. We’d like to see him be more aggressive.”

Brett Norris said: “That’s part of the evolution for him as a player. He’s more than capable. It’s finding his way.

“He understands where he’s at in the pecking order. At the same time, he’s got to be a little more opportunistic with that.”

The Raiders dress 10 players each game with the other three on scholarship being redshirted this year. All 10 saw action against Division-III Defiance last week, and Norris was the only one who didn’t score.

His average is down from 3.7 last year to 2.7, but that’s certainly no reflection of his value to the Raiders.

He’s third in minutes per game at 31.9 because he’s a coach’s dream: smart with the ball and a fierce competitor.

“He’s hard to take off the floor because, as you see, if the ball goes on the floor, he’s the first guy ON the floor,” Nagy said. “He’s one of our toughest kids. He gives us things. He moves the ball. He takes care of it. He’s a good ball-handler.”

The 6-foot Norris has put on six to eight pounds of muscle since last season, and he’s clearly spent time in the weight room. His new body has allowed him to be more physical and hold his own against better athletes.

And Nagy wouldn’t put a 6-footer in the starting backcourt with 6-1 star Trey Calvin if he didn’t see plenty of positives that come with it.

“It’s a little bit of an unconventional starting lineup. It’s a tiny guard starting lineup, which I don’t like necessarily. I don’t think it gives us good matchups,” Nagy said.

“But we went into Louisville with that tiny, little lineup — and they have one of the biggest lineups in the country — and beat them. I’m not too worried about it.”

Norris has made a jump as a player this season because he was given hefty responsibility as a freshman.

He was fifth in minutes, made eight starts and played his best in the biggest games of the year.

He had 10 points in the Horizon League semifinal win over Cleveland State, going 3 of 4 on 3′s. And in 101 minutes over the last four games — CSU, the HL championship over Northern Kentucky and two NCAA games against Bryant and Arizona — he had 16 points, eight assists and just two turnovers.

“There’s no substitute for experience, right?” Brett Norris said. “The last several weeks last year, he was playing heavier minutes. … All those positive experiences — not just him, but the whole program — has, even though they lost some key pieces, been a springboard this year to how well they’re playing.”

Norris, though, has a differently mentality than his higher-scoring teammates.

He’s averaging one shot every 9.8 minutes, while Calvin and Davis are shooting once every 1.7 and 2.4 minutes, respectively.

Last year, Grant Basile averaged a field-goal attempt every 2.4 minutes, Tanner Holden 2.6 and Calvin 2.8.

But asked where he’s improved the most since last season, Norris said: “Confidence level. I feel like I could do more out there, but I’m still showing more than I did last year. And the guys and coaches are giving me confidence to just play my game.”

Nagy and the Norris family have an extensive history — and the Raiders are hoping it doesn’t end any time soon.

Braden Norris, the oldest of four boys, began his career at Oakland, making the Horizon League all-freshman team. But he was looking to transfer after one season.

“He entered the portal on a Friday, and coach Nagy was in our living room on Saturday,” Brett Norris said.

Braden ended up at Loyola (Ill.) and is in his third year as a starter, helping the Ramblers to 26-5 and 25-8 records the last two seasons and two NCAA trips, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2021.

Wright State’s staff had to do most of its scouting of Keaton through live streaming because of COVID-19, but the coaches saw something no other Division-I school did.

“I didn’t have any other offers. Covid really hurt me. It hurt a lot of guys in my class. But I got the right offer,” Keaton said.

Two more Norris boys are already showing they have the family’s basketball genes.

Cade is a junior and has a scholarship offer from Wright State. Kypton is a seventh-grade hoopster.

“When you grow up around it and see your brothers on such a stage, I think it helps to motivate them,” Brett said. “Keaton and Braden have been great, pushing them along and helping them.”

Norris isn’t doing any recruiting with Cade around the dinner table on trips home. But he won’t hesitate to promote Nagy and the Raiders if asked.

“I’m trying to let him go through the process of recruiting and stay out of the way. I’m not trying to get in a competition (with Braden),” he said.

But if his final two choices end up being Loyola and Wright State?

“If it comes down to it, I’ll definitely try to get him here,” Keaton said with a smile.

MONDAY’S GAME

Wright State vs. Abilene Christian, 7:30 p.m., 980

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