Norton new star of Rock Bridge boys basketball

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | 11:31 p.m. CST; updated 11:38 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The Rock Bridge High School boys basketball team beat Jefferson City 70-47.

COLUMBIA — Nick Norton wasted no time setting the tone.

Not even 90 seconds into the Rock Bridge boys basketball team's 70-47 victory Tuesday night against Jefferson City, the junior guard had seven points on 3-of-3 shooting.

Eighteen more points for a total of 25, five assists, five steals and one nifty alley-oop pass to teammate David Leitao later, Norton had led Rock Bridge to its second consecutive victory and second this season against Jefferson City.

After the game, Norton spoke of how last week’s triple-overtime loss to Hickman “hit the team hard” and has motivated them to have a more concerted effort in practice.

The 5-foot-10 guard has since led the way for Rock Bridge, amassing 44 points and 15 assists in the Bruins’ two games following the loss to their crosstown rivals.

In his third season on the varsity roster, Norton, who committed to play for Creighton University last June, has taken over for former Bruin Travis Jorgenson as the team’s go-to player.

Jorgenson transferred to New Hampton School in New Hampshire for his senior season.

Losing a Division I caliber player such as Jorgenson would prove devastating to most prep teams. But that didn’t prove to be the case at Rock Bridge. Norton has filled the void created by Jorgenson’s departure.

Bruins coach Jim Scanlon said he never doubted Norton could handle it.

“He knows our system, and he knows what’s expected of him,” Scanlon said.

After all, this isn’t the first time Norton has stepped in for Jorgenson. When Jorgenson missed more than a month with a thumb injury last season, it was Norton that filled up the box score for the Bruins.

Drawing upon his prior experience at the varsity level, Norton didn’t feel pressure and wasn’t fazed by the circumstances facing him. As the most experienced player on the varsity roster, Norton took it upon himself to ensure that the team wouldn’t skip a beat without Jorgenson by getting his teammates excited for practice.

“We knew we couldn’t let that affect our season so we all came together and knew what we had to do,” Norton said.

Scanlon noted his guards are interchangeable and that he trusts each of them to run the offense. However, more often than not, it is Norton with the ball in his hands, acting as the catalyst for the Bruins, either by creating his open shot or an open look for a teammate.

And Norton will do whatever it takes to win.

“I’ll do whatever works to get the win, whether I have to hit everybody open, or I have to score whenever," Norton said. "I just love winning.”

So, does the junior consider himself to be a pass first player or a shoot first player?

“Win,” Norton said. "That’s all I care about.”

Norton said he models his game after Los Angeles Clippers’ superstar Chris Paul, whom he studies through YouTube videos.

Paul’s ball-handling skills impress Norton the most.

“I feel like every NBA point guard has crazy handles, but I try to do whatever he’s doing,” he said.

As for Jorgenson, Norton said the two have stayed in touch but interactions have been brief and haven’t involved hoops discussion since both are in season and free time is sparse. Norton recently caught some of Jorgenson’s new squad play on ESPN.

Scanlon is entirely content with the players he has at his disposal, especially his prized junior guard, Norton.

“I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the state of Missouri, I love him to death,” Scanlon said.

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