June 18, 2013
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ----- Positive, caring, energetic -- those are just three words that UAB women's basketball players have used to describe the first months under new head coach Randy Norton and his staff.
Norton, along with associate head coach Taren Martin, recruiting coordinator Ashleen Bracey and assistant recruiting coordinator Matt Fitzpatrick, took the reins of the Blazers' women's basketball program in April and has spent the last few months building relationships with current players and recruits across the state.
"What I want to do at UAB is create a family atmosphere," Norton said. "I want this to be my extended family and re-create for these young ladies what I have been blessed to have in my 30 years of coaching."
In just two short months, Norton has done just that at UAB. The players have gone through individual workouts and one-on-one training with the coaching staff, while spending time away from the court hanging out at team dinners or even playing laser tag.
Whether it is working on shooting a 3-point basket or shooting your teammate with a tiny red laser, players like senior Karisma Chapman have already noticed the impact Norton has had in his short time with the team.
"Coach Norton is one of the most positive people I have ever been around," Chapman said. "Even when you miss a shot or make a mistake, he is there to build you up and give you confidence so you can get better. He makes you want to be better at everything you do, whether it is in the classroom or on the court."
Chapman's thoughts on Norton seem to echo the common theme that is found when players are asked about the new coach and his coaching style -- it's a philosophy that involves building confidence and improving players' individual skills. In time, athletes like senior Ashley Grimes
feel like that positive atmosphere will pay off for the Blazers.
"The whole coaching staff likes to build players up, and that makes me want to practice and play even harder," Grimes said. "I have no doubt that he is going to make us better and make us into a championship team."
UAB heads into the 2013-14 season with eight players, including two All-Conference USA performers, returning from a team that went 18-13 and made it to the first round of the WNIT last season. If the Blazers are to take the next step and build on past accomplishments, they know the hard work they will each have to put in.
According to sophomore Kayla Anderson, progress has already started.
"The coaching staff makes the workouts fun, but at the same time they are very competitive," Anderson said. "By the end of your workout you don't even realize how hard you have worked until you see your jersey soaked in sweat."
The Blazers will continue those grueling workouts for the remainder of the summer as Norton and his UAB family work toward the beginning of the 2013-14 season and a new era of Blazer women's basketball.