Worcester Academy coach Jamie Sullivan first saw Chris “Tre” Norman play in January 2020 against two-time Division 1 state champion Lynn English. While Norman’s TechBoston side was blown out, 77-53, and the sophomore wing failed to score in double figures, Sullivan was blown away.
It was Norman’s attitude and leadership that endeared the 25-year veteran coach to the Dorchester resident.
“What I remember is his fight,” Sullivan said of watching Norman play for a TechBoston program that won consecutive D2 state titles. “I remember his conviction. I remember watching a sophomore lead a group of kids. It reminded me a lot of [former Worcester Academy star and Iowa freshman] Dasonte Bowen.
“A sophomore leading a program, leading a team, leading a coaching staff, and rallying people around him even while he was struggling to score. He never quit, and he showed me the mental capacity of a professional.”
Now Norman, a Marquette-bound reclassified 2023 prospect, has brought those attributes to Worcester, growing into a star guard who was named team MVP after leading his squad to a NEPSAC AA title last winter.
“He’s become possibly the best leader I’ve ever had in my 25 years [12 as head coach] at Worcester Academy,” Sullivan said.
On Saturday (7:30 p.m.) Norman will lead Worcester Academy against reigning NEPSAC AAA champion Brewster Academy in the headline matchup of the Andrew James Lawson Foundation Tournament at TD Garden.
The annual tournament — dedicated to Lawson, Norwell’s beloved athlete and coach, who died at 27 from cancer — starts with two unified basketball games, followed by a mixed slate of MIAA, ISL, and NEPSAC contests.
There will be 14 Division I commits on the floor in the matchup between Brewster and Worcester, but Norman is the only player on his team with experience on the parquet floor.
As an eighth grader, Norman rode the bench while TechBoston rolled to a D2 state title. Then he returned to the Garden the following year as a versatile starting forward in a small-ball scheme, helping the Bears grind out a 61-53 win over Belmont en route to another state crown.
“That time was crucial for me,” Norman said of his two seasons at TechBoston. “Those years are what mold you and turn your character into what you’re going to be. I was blessed to have peers around me who taught me how to be tough, gritty, and gave me life lessons that go way beyond basketball.”
Norman’s dad, Chris Jr., played at Charlestown and his mom, Shakowa Neal, was a star at New Mission. His father’s cousin, Cory Joseph, plays for the Detroit Pistons. His parents guided him toward TechBoston, where head coach Johnny Williams and a crew of veteran leaders brought him into the fold.
As a newcomer in a demanding system, Norman learned how to accept criticism as tough love, a delicate balance he has learned to walk as a captain at Worcester.
“It was instilled in me at a young age, to keep a positive head even if things weren’t going my way,” said Norman, a 6-foot-4-inch guard who averaged 19.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last season.
“Especially now that I’m older, I know what it’s like to be in the younger guys’ shoes. You can say one wrong thing and they lose their confidence. I know it’s not the easiest thing to bounce back from that.”
Worcester is off to a 13-1 start with Norman averaging 17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 steals with a career-best 2.43 assist to turnover ratio.
Alongside Providence commit Kayvaun Mulready (17.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and the state’s reigning Gatorade Player of the Year, Duke-bound forward T.J. Power (16.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG) of Shrewsbury, Norman has Worcester primed to compete for another NEPSAC title.
Brewster is led by seven All-American nominees, including Milton’s Reid Ducharme (committed to Xavier), and prolific forward Taylor Bol Bowen (Florida State). Andover’s Aidan Cammann (Harvard) and Weston’s Sawyer Mayhugh (UMass) are also on the roster for the New Hampshire powerhouse.
Ssaturday’s action concludes with a rivalry bout between Belmont Hill and unbeaten St. Sebastian’s, featuring Yale-bound guard Trevor Mullin (Wellesley) and highly-touted freshman AJ Dybansta (Brockton).
Norman said he grew up living in nearly every neighborhood of Boston, playing at nearly every outdoor court, and idolizing rising stars such as Terrence Clarke. When he got to Worcester Academy, BABC and Cathedral coach Jamal Griffin told Norman that young kids in Boston were looking up to him now, and the rising star hasn’t disappointed.
Sullivan called Norman one of the most underrated recruits in Big East history, but his senior leader remains humble while continuing to work on the mental and physical aspects of his game.
“[Norman] wants to be coached hard,” said Worcester associate head coach Dan Sullivan. The 10-year-assistant added Norman has told the staff multiple times during timeouts or halftime that if he isn’t performing up to par, he should be benched.
“He wants to be held to a high standard and we could tell he didn’t want to go somewhere where everything was going to be given to him,” continued Dan Sullivan. “That’s what his game is based on, and that trickles down to his teammates. If the most talented players want to be held accountable, it means everybody is going to be held accountable. Tre and this group have been accountable, and I think that’s why we’ve had so much success.”
▪ The MIAA released its first power rankings of the winter season Friday. Lawrence is No. 1 in Division 1 followed by Franklin, Central Catholic, Newton North, and Catholic Memorial. Reigning state champion Malden Catholic led Division 2 by percentage points over Mansfield. Archbishop Williams is atop Division 3 ahead of Old Rochester and Dover-Sherborn. Wareham leads Division 4 and Hopkins Academy is the top seed in Division 5.
⋅The North Andover Fall Ball league is disbanding after 18 years, with plans to join with other Merrimack Valley area programs for an even bigger fall league starting in 2023 . . . Newton North beat Northwest Catholic, the top-ranked team in Connecticut, 67-59 in double overtime Thursday at HoopHall in Springfield. The Tigers then lost to Needham Saturday, but were without a number of key players including star forward Will Davis . . . Holbrook guard Owen Burke recorded his 1,000th career point Friday on an assist from his younger brother Keagan.
Games to watch
Tuesday, Marshfield at Plymouth South, 6:30 p.m. — The Rams took their first loss on Friday against North Quincy, but still lead the Patriot Keenan division, and will look to take down the Patriot Fisher leader on the road.
Tuesday, Norwood at Dover-Sherborn, 6:30 p.m. — Fresh off a trip to the Division 2 state final, the Mustangs will look to stop the undefeated Raiders, who sit atop the Tri-Valley League standings.
Wednesday, St. Mary’s at Burke, 6 p.m. — After a competitive trip to Florida, St. Mary’s is showcasing its potential to repeat as Division 3 state champions. Now in the Division 4 ranks, Burke looks like a prime contender for a state title.
Friday, Natick at Needham, 6:30 p.m. — The Rockets took down rival Newton North in a nonleague showdown last Saturday and will look to stay hot at home against a Natick team that sits in second place in the Bay State Carey standings.
Friday, Lawrence at Central Catholic, 6:30 p.m. — This is the second of three matchups between these MVC powers. Lawrence edged Central, 58-51, in the Commonwealth Motors Classic in December and will host the Raiders on Feb 14.