Feb. 12, 1998

Better-Conditioned Nolan Produces Big Results for UVa

nolan photo
Norman Nolan.

By his own admission when he came to Charlottesville in 1994, Norman Nolan had no idea of the strenuous conditioning required to excel in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Four year later, he has become a role model for the rest of the league. In the best shape of his life, Nolan is playing the best basketball of his four years at Virginia and has emerged as a candidate for All-ACC honors.

"We knew that Norman could step up his game and he's done just that," head coach Jeff Jones said. "He has become our go-to guy." To get an idea of how the 6-8 senior from Baltimore has progressed, consider a few statistical comparisons: It took Nolan just 18 games this season to score as many points as he did in 31 games, including 26 as a starter, in 1996-97. Nolan was the ACC leader in "double-doubles" through January with 11. He had 10 in his first three years combined at UVa. His 35 points against North Carolina State Jan. 18 tied for the fifth-best showing ever by a Cavalier in University Hall. Little wonder then that teammate Donald Hand was moved to say: "He's a man-child right now. No one can stop him."

Nolan attributes his stellar numbers to improved conditioning and a sense of mission in his final season. "I've been very determined to go out and have the best year I've had since I've been here," Nolan said. "The off-season workouts helped a lot with my stamina. I'm in rea l good shape now. I couldn't say that when I first got here," he said. Additionally, Nolan was eager to fill the point gap created when Harold Deane, Courtney Alexander and Jamal Robinson departed after last season. "Last year, we had four major scorers and everybody wanted to be the big one. The loss of those scorers gives everyone a chance to step up. A lot of people doubted that I could do that, but I knew I could," he said.

Nolan was considered a major recruiting coup when he committed to UVa after lea ding Dunbar High School to the Maryland Class AA state title as a senior. As a freshman, he averaged 8.0 minutes and 2.6 points per game in a reserve role behind Junior Burrough. But Jones fretted that he could not rely on Nolan for longer stretches of activity. "It was clear that Norman needed a lot of work in that regard," Jones said. "He was producing for us when he was playing, but we needed more playing time out of him." As a starter in his sophomore and junior years, Nolan gradually saw more acti Łon, averaging about 29 minutes a game. He scored 11.3 points on 45.7 shooting in 1996-97. But Jones and Nolan both were dissatisfied with the end results of the forward's labors.

"Last year, I was very inconsistent early on. Against schools that were not the level of the ACC, I just didn't show up," Nolan said. "Then toward the latter part of the season, I found myself getting out of shape." That is why Jones thought Nolan might be the primary beneficiary of a rugged off-season conditioning program that included everything from running to obstacle courses. As a result, this year Nolan scarcely has stopped to take a breather. He has averaged 35 minutes per game, and almost 39 minutes in ACC action. He added a short jump shot to his repertoire of post-up moves, and has boosted his free throw shooting from a 56 percent career mark to 66 percent.

"That is important because Norman is getting to the line more than anyone else on our team," Jones said. "I still think he can do better, bit it is someth `ing he has worked on." Nolan said he will continue to work on his game, particularly moving his feet on defense, in the hope of attracting attention from pro scouts. "That's definitely a goal of mine," he said. "I just want them to know that I am not afraid of hard work."