The Times West Virginian

February 1, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Noreen fills his role for Mountaineers

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Think of a basketball player and what comes to mind?

Normally, it’s a long and athletic person, be it Jerry West or Michael Jordan. These are the guys who night after night, year after year do things that leave you amazed, be it how fast they move, how high they jump, how strong they are.

And then there’s Kevin Noreen.

No, the West Virginia University junior doesn’t have the lithe moves of a Juwan Staten, the jumping ability of Terry Henderson, the speed of Eron Harris.

His job is to play defense, to set screens, to make a pass or two.

Points? They belong to others. Just look at his 2.0 scoring average to understand that.

Everyone, of course, who has ever stepped on a basketball court wants to score, wants to rebound or make a spectacular play above the rim, so how is it that Noreen can accept being what he is on a basketball court?

“There’s something Huggs (coach Bob Huggins) says all the time. ... You do what you do, and by doing that you get minutes on the floor,” Noreen explained.

He listens and because he does he is a valuable role player.

“You don’t try to do too much. You do what he asks, and you do what you’re good at. That’s why I get myself on the floor. I’ll do what I’m good at,” he said.

And just what is he good at doing?

“I guess I’m someone you can count on, someone you can trust, someone you can run a play through and trust to make the right pass,” he said.

 “There’s a lot to be said for someone who will keep the ball moving and set screens,” Huggins said. “Over the years he’s made some key baskets when we needed baskets. He does make good cuts to the basket at times.”

You have to admire someone who can be so low key in a sport that is built mostly on bling.

“He puts more time in the gym than anybody else,” Huggins said, and you know that makes big impressions on the coach. “Kevin is one of those guys it’s more important he doesn’t hurt the team. If anything, he errs on not wanting to hurt the team more than wanting to help the team, if that makes sense … and I don’t mean that in a negative way.

“That’s just his personality. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t want to make mistakes, and he takes mistakes very personally. When you are like that you don’t take many chances.”

In this Internet world of ours, where you make a great play and it’s everywhere on Facebook and Twitter within minutes, it is really hard to be low key, yet that’s all Noreen wants.

He isn’t looking to be the star, simply a member of winning team.

“You just take what’s there. If it’s not there, do what the offense says and try to get the ball to the guys who are making shots. This year it’s been Eron and Terry and Juwan handling the ball,” he explained.

The result of that?

“I’ve set more screens this year than the past three years combined, probably,” he said.

Noreen is now a junior, so you wondered what would be a successful career for a player filling his role?

“Individually, I just wanted to make it to Senior Night and have my jersey waiting for me at the end of the carpet and be cheered by the fans,” he said. “As a team, we have everyone coming back and are adding a couple of guys. We want to make a run at it next year.”

By then he will have his degree in sports management and just the other day he learned he was qualified to be named an academic All-American with a 4.0 average, maybe the only basketball player whose academic average tops his scoring average.

“It goes hand in hand, and that’s the truth,” he said. “I came here to play basketball, but I came here to get an education, too. I do my best in the classroom and I do my best on the floor and I wouldn’t expect any less from myself.”

Where it will eventually take him he is unsure, but basketball has been important in helping prepare him for his life after the game.

“Basketball has helped me network. I’ve met a lot of important people,” he said.

He isn’t sure what area of sports management he will follow and says that even coaching isn’t out of the question.

“I have a lot of relationships with people in the business. When the time comes I’ll take the best opportunity,” he said.

But first there’s a matter of getting the Mountaineers through this year and next.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.