On the right track: Ex-Trojan helps college team change fortunes

Should Holy Cross College eventually emerge as a consistent force in NAIA Division II women’s basketball, players like Jessica Norris will be credited for the about-face.

At 10-9, the Saints are on track for the first winning season in the program’s nine-year history. In the six years prior to the arrival of Norris (2009-15), Holy Cross’ overall record was a dreadful 41-143.

Norris, a Center Grove graduate now midway through her junior season, averages 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds as one of three starting guards.

“Jess has had a really good career for us,” Holy Cross coach Amy Niespodziany said. “She started to flourish her sophomore season and is now doing a lot of nice things by expanding her game. Jess works so hard, and her desire to compete has helped her.

“She’s so coachable, and she buys into the team concept. We have a pretty solid nucleus of players, and she’s definitely part of that nucleus.”

Academically and athletically, the past two-and-a-half years have been a time of transition for Norris, who has enjoyed the process.

“Obviously, Center Grove is a pretty big school, and my school here is only about 500 students. We have about five students per class, so it’s very different,” said Norris, an elementary education major who carries a 3.3 grade-point average. “I love it here.

“We have really good team chemistry this year. We were pretty young my freshman season, and now we have all seniors and juniors starting.”

Predominantly a trusted perimeter shooter in high school, Norris still has her touch, having knocked down nearly one-third of Holy Cross’ made 3-pointers this season.

Only now, Norris, who stands 5-foot-6, also is the team’s third-leading rebounder and second in assists and steals.

“As time went on, I realized I needed to do much more than shoot,” Norris said. “I finally realized I needed to help with rebounding, but I handle the ball a lot more now, too. I’m a 2 guard, but can run the point if needed.”

Norris, who has 621 career points at Holy Cross entering today’s game against Saint Ambrose, could crack the 1,000 mark for her career before the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

Still a zone defense’s worst enemy, Norris is leaving her imprint on Holy Cross in other ways, too.

By the numbers

A look at Jessica Norris’s career statistics at Holy Cross College:

Season;PPG;RPG;3-pt FG

2015-16;6.1;1.8;38

2016-17;9.3;2.5;56

2017-18;11.7;4.9;56

Author photo
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.