ATLANTA -- Kevin Norris seemed to enjoy every moment of a 15-minute news conference yesterday, laughing and joking with reporters as he talked about tonight's Miami clash with sixth-seeded UCLA (22-8) in the opening round of the NCAA tournament South Regional at the Georgia Dome.
The former Lake Clifton star figured it was only right to have a little fun, because it took the Hurricanes 38 years to return to the tournament since their only other NCAA appearance in 1960.
"I mean, 40 years is a long time, and I think it's best just to round it off at 40 instead of saying 38," said Norris, drawing laughs.
PTC Norris continued on a roll when someone asked him how he got his nickname, "Little Stink."
"Yeah, I'm Little Stink. My dad [Kevin Sr., who died in 1991] was Big Stink, and, who knows, there might be a Stink III some day," he said amid a roomful of laughter. "But I'm not going to tell you how my dad got that name. I don't want to be telling any stories on him."
Norris, a dynamic senior point guard, leads 11th-seeded Miami (18-9) in assists with 5.0 a game, and averages 7.8 points and 2.8 rebounds.
Some consider him the chairman of the board on a team that coach Leonard Hamilton says "wins by committee. We get 15 points here and 12 points there. We don't have a big superstar."
Norris, 5 feet 9, has started a school-record 107 consecutive games and has stuck it out with the Hurricanes through good and bad times.
Now, his dream has been realized.
"Kevin came here because he wanted to do something no one else has done for a long time, and he's done it," said Jimmy Meil, a former longtime Towson State assistant who is in his first year as an administrative assistant to Hamilton. "It's great to see such nice kid rewarded for his patience."
In January, Hamilton suspended Norris' close friend, sophomore swing man Johnny Hemsley from Baltimore's Southern High, and another sophomore, Lucas Barnes, who has since dropped off the team.
Hemsley was suspended for four games just when the Hurricanes were rolling.
"I'm not going to say the suspensions didn't hurt us, because they did," said Norris. "We were 12-1 before them and then we started losing. They distracted us. But we got it back together."
Hamilton never revealed the reasons for the suspensions.
But Hemsley, 6-5, seems to have bounced back strong from the suspension and is the second-leading scorer on the team at 14.1 a game, is third in rebounding at 4.0 and is third in minutes at 29.8.
"Johnny's best basketball is ahead of him," said Hamilton.
Pub Date: 3/13/98