(Photo Credit: www.miami.cbslocal.com)
Flashback to 2011. I was fresh out of college, working with the University of Illinois-Chicago’s athletic department, at that time specifically in Sports Information. I attended every home game, sitting front and center at the media table, looking slightly ridiculous as my headset was too big for my head. Now zero in on Jan. 27 of that year. The UIC Flames were playing Cleveland State that evening, and that was the first time I was exposed to Norris Cole.
As the matchup began, I started learning a little about our opponents through the incessant chatter happening around me.
“It’s too bad he has such a temper,” whispered a mixture of voices next to me, about Cole. “He could have quite a career.”
I kept a close eye on Cole that night and what I saw, amazed me. He was unbelievably fast, put up numbers way beyond those of his teammates (or anyone on “my” team by far) and had a way about him, an innate drive, that was rarely found in a college athlete; especially one playing for a team part of a league as anonymous as the Horizon League. Cole averaged 22 points and six rebounds during his senior year at CSU and would soon become a part of the NBA. To this day I still find myself wondering, “Where is/was this horrible temper everyone spoke of?”
After being drafted and then passed up by the likes of the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves during the summer of 2011, Cole ended up with the Miami Heat, and would go on to win a championship during each of his first two years.
Today’s ode to Cole goes beyond just giving the young guy a nod. The Miami Heat need to start utilizing him more often, especially now that they are up against the Indiana Pacers. Last postseason he averaged six points per game, which may not seem like much, but it goes beyond straight numbers with him. When Cole is on the court, the pace of the game changes. The team becomes re-energized. Their ball movement increases tenfold. Their intensity gets dialed up a notch. Their formations fall better into place.
“I get more aggressive,” Cole told the South Florida Sun Sentinel about the playoffs, after Game 4 against the Charlotte Bobcats. “You take more chances. You still play within yourself and within the team concept and at the same time being aggressive. This is our time of year. This is what we’ve been waiting on. Me personally, this is what I’ve been waiting on.”
I too have been waiting on this all season, and the only thing that would make it better is seeing a little more Cole-action on my television screen.
The Heat are not necessarily known for their depth so why not put a little more responsibility in the hands of a unique player like Cole?
Having faith in the high-top fade rocking guard especially makes sense when you look at the Pacers’ second-line. C.J. Watson is no stranger to the game, having been in the league for seven years (four postseason appearances), but it cannot be denied that Cole is quicker and creates more opportunities for those around him. Cole also seems more poised under pressure than Watson, always playing it cool regardless of the current score or situation of a series. Not to mention the fact that Cole could not ask for better mentors, as he is around talent like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
As the Heat come away with a loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, they might want to consider jumping aboard the Coletrain. Next stop? Hopefully, win city.