For a brief moment yesterday, Norman Nolan was just another 17-year-old. Standing in the courtyard of Dunbar High School, he was enjoying the spring-like breeze that was gently blowing on a mid-November afternoon.
A couple of minutes later, his stepfather, Sam Robinson, and mother, Vanessa Robinson, arrived, and they went into Dunbar's gymnasium.
Approximately 10 minutes later, in front of television cameras and microphones, Nolan was ready to announce the biggest decision of his life: Would he be enrolling at Virginia, Providence or Georgia Tech?
"After fully investigating the schools, it came down to one school that I would be happiest with," Nolan said, sitting behind a table with his parents, sister and grandmother. "I was happy with all three, but I had to choose one. Deep down inside, I felt as though I would like to further my education and showcase my basketball talents at the University of Virginia."
The 6-foot-8, two-time All-Metro center, who met the ACT qualifying score and is carrying a grade-point average that will make him eligible as a freshman, signed a national letter of intent.
"I had a great visit and felt that I have a great opportunity," he said. "It's real convenient for my family
and friends to come see me play. This is, by all means, a tough decision. I would like to thank my parents dearly for sticking out for as long as they did and schools who took the time out to recruit me."
Reading from a statement, Nolan said that his coach last season, Pete Pompey, gave him advice during the past few months when the recruiting process intensified. Pompey is on administrative leave with pay while the state's attorney's office investigates alleged misuse of Dunbar athletic funds. Nolan said that Pompey's absence has had a disturbing effect.
"I received some assistance from Coach Pompey, but he could only help so much," he said. "I wish he could be here today to share the biggest decision of my life.
Reached at home last night, Pom
pey said: "I thought it was a good decision. I know he was going through some difficulty, because there were some outstanding schools. He knew it was going to be a tough decision. . . . What it came down to is that Virginia is a small town with a good atmosphere. I think that made the difference."
Nolan said he feels relieved about his college decision and wants to put the problems of the last year behind him. In addition to Pompey's being put on administrative leave in August, Nolan's eligibility was endangered this season when he accepted a $100 gift certificate from Nike after participating in its Fab 40 tournament in Beaverton, Ore., in September. That violated the rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Nolan returned the merchandise and was not penalized.
Last September, he was criticized for transferring to Dunbar from Milford Mill. He led the Millers to the state Class 1A title as a sophomore, averaging 21.7 points, 15.4 rebounds and 3.9 blocks. Last season, he averaged 18.1 points and 12.3 rebounds in helping the Poets to a Class 1A championship.
"There's more than athletic ability there," said interim Dunbar coach Paul Smith, who attended the news conference. "When I read the article that was published about two or three weeks ago, I was impressed about how he said what he said."
Yesterday morning, Lake Clifton center Terrance Payne signed with Xavier. Payne, 6-7, a second-team All-Baltimore City selection, chose the Ohio school over Kansas State and Tennessee.