The IUP Crimson Hawks are getting a boost this week.
Brandon Norfleet, a sophomore guard, is joining the rotation after sitting out the first seven games due to academic ineligibility. He is expected to step right into the starting lineup at the shooting guard spot for an IUP team that is 7-0 and ranked seventh in NCAA Division II.
“Brandon has a lot of different skills from the guard position,” IUP coach Joe Lombardi said. “He’ll be playing mainly the off guard, but he has point guard skills, and he’ll be backing up Devante Chance at point guard. He’s a player that can knock down 3s and get to the rim, and he does a good job with that, but mainly what he likes to do most is pass the basketball. So because of his unselfishness and style of play it should be an easy transition as far as the chemistry of the team goes.”
Norfleet, who is 6-foot-4, transferred from Cheyney after the spring semester. He was a starter at Cheyney, often running the point, and was named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division Freshman of the Year after averaging 13.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
“He also has good size for a guard, and because of his size and length, we expect him to be an above-average rebounder for a guard and an above-average defender — if he has the want-to to be an exceptional defender. So he has a chance to be a good player in our program over the next three years; it’s just a matter of going out and continuing to learn what IUP basketball is all about and working to fit in and play up to his abilities on a consistent level.”
Norfleet joins Mathis Keita, Marcel Souberbielle, Chance and Jeremy Jeffers in the starting five.
Devon Cottrell, a 6-6 redshirt sophomore who started the first seven games at center, is going to come off the bench.
Norfleet’s addition instantly makes the bench stronger — the Hawks have been getting only 7.1 points per game from the bench — and lessens some of the wear and tear on Keita, Souberbielle and Chance, who have been playing an average of 36 minutes in a 40-minute game.
It also will lead to some minor position changes, with Keita moving from shooting guard to small forward; Souberbielle moving from small forward to power forward; and Jeffers moving from power forward to center. Keita and Souberbielle played those positions last season, and Jeffers has played forward and center in his first season since transferring from Division I Drake.
“He’s going to give us another player in the rotation,” Lombardi said, “and that’s going to be a positive for Devante, Marcel and Mathis because they won’t have to play 36 minutes a night — it’s hard to go as hard as we except and be productive. All players want to play the whole game if you let them … but those three guys that have been playing 36 a game can be more efficient with few less minutes and help us become a better team.”
Norfleet is expected to make his debut Tuesday evening when IUP ends a 10-day break from games by playing host to Millersville in the first of PSAC crossover games on consecutive nights. IUP welcomes Shippensburg — coached by Chris Fite, an assistant at IUP the previous seven seasons — on Wednesday.
“We’re just adding another piece to the puzzle,” Lombardi said. “The core of the team is still the four returning guys we had from last year, and Brandon needs to work hard to fit in with them, to fit in with the team. But he has the right attitude, a good, unselfish attitude, so I don’t see a lot of conflict in adding another good player to the team. It just adds another good player to an already-established good group of players.”