Audie Norris is a former legendary basketball player of F.C Barcelona, Benetton Treviso and Nikas Pesteri, Norris started his basketball career in Jackson State University (1978 to 1982). After finishing college he was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers (in the same draft as Dominique Wilkins, Terry Cummings and James Worthy). He spent 3 years in the NBA and earning the nickname “The Atomic Dog” from teammate Mychal Thompson, he then decided to move to Europe, where he played for prestigious clubs like Benetton Treviso, Nikas Peristeri, and Barelona. Barça Regal had him on their roster for six seasons where he won three ACB Leagues, two Cups, a Príncipe de Astúrias Cup and a Spanish Super Cup. Everyone who saw him play vividly recalls his battles with Fernando Martin. Now, Norris has an academy of players in Michigan, but his heart still belongs to Spain.
Read below the FC Barcelona legend Audie Norris speaking to Vladimir Stankovic at L’Hospitalet 2012.
VS: You have been at L’Hospitalet 2012 for the last two days of the tournament. What do you think of the level of basketball on display?
AN: This is a very important tournament, where you can see the future of basketball in Spain and Europe. I’ve seen some players who have a great future. Lietuvos Rytas has some great players that have caught my attention.
VS: From your experience, what differences do you see in the Junior category between American and European players?
AN: In the United States they are more athletic, but now it is the Europeans that are more technical than the Americans who have lost a lot of technique, most of their game is now is more individual, more show.
VS: In this junior season has there been many tournaments like this in the U.S.?
AN: Yes, there are many tournaments of its kind in the United States during this season, competing with schools and clubs during the summer on the AAU (American Athletics Union). It is good as they are so focused on the young stars, who do what they want.
VS: Ferran Martinez said during this tournament that the centers have lacked the footwork required under the basket. Are you of the same opinion?
AN: You always have to improve your footwork and moves under the basket. Today basketball has lost track of these issues. The game now seems to be geared more to the exterior than inside under the basket. They have forgotten the tall men, who are dedicated to making blocks, taking rebounds, and alley-oop’s. When a team has trouble scoring from the outside, you must have a strong inside game. In our time, the team had this balance, we had Epi or Nacho (Solozábal) who could put the ball in and (Andrew) Jimenez, Ferran (Martinez), (Steve) Trumbo and I, we knew how to do it under the basket.
VS: What do you now do for a living in the U.S.?
AN: I have my own school, with players from this age of 18-20 years. We bring players from many countries: France, Cameroon, Sudan, Australia, Senegal … Coaches from around the world call me to take their players to my school in Jackson (Mississippi). During the last seven or eight years I have helped many players to enter the NCAA and JUCO.
VS: What is your role in the school? A director, organiser or coach?
AN: As it is my school I oversee everything, from organisation to coaching, working directly with the players.
VS: Do you work directly with all players or just the big men?
AN: No, I work with everyone, not just the big men. I am a coach, not a specialist of tall men. In the last 15 years I have learned so much about basketball, working with boys and girls aged 10 to 12 years. I have also trained as an assistant at Jackson State University, Jackson Rage of the ABA League. I have gained a lot of experience at all levels of basketball.
VS: Americans invented basketball, but can an American learn about basketball in Europe?
AN: Yes, of course. I’ve learned a lot here. A student of basketball can learn anywhere, if they want. Which system is better? Its unclear, however beyond systems today we need to connect with our players.
VS: The players at your school, do they know of your past? Do they respect you for it?
AN: Yes, they know. And of course they respect me for it, if not, I kick their ass (laughs).
VS: Do you still follow European basketball?
AN: Yes, I’m online all the time following all the teams here, the Euroleague, Spanish League, Italian … I am a student of basketball. And so I return to Spain.
VS: Have you already made some contact or talked with any club?
AN: No, because I want to talk to the club. Barca is my club. I would like to work with them. They have a great team, with great players and I think I can help the team.
VS: But, do you prefer: working with seniors or youth training?
AN: I train both senior and youth players, I like both. I am a professional and I think I can teach professionals, who can always learn to improve their game, everyone should strive to continually improve. I want to go finish my career, my life, living here in Spain. That’s my big dream.
VS: Does your child play?
AN: Yes, he is looking for a team now. He is 25 years old. Since he was born in Italy he wants to utilise his Italian passport and play in the EU. At the moment he is training with Barça B.