The first time Shannon Norton set foot in the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym, she was a member of the Suffolk University women’s basketball team. The Rams beat the Lions that year to secure bragging rights over their cross-Common rivals.
Almost a year later, when Suffolk faced Emerson again, Norton was wearing white and purple. The sophomore guard had the game of her career against her old team, scoring 23 points in a 69-61 win at Suffolk’s Regan Gym.
“I was playing against all my old friends, and I just wanted to prove to the Suffolk coach that I should have been getting more minutes than I had,” Norton said. As a freshman under coach Ed Leyden, she averaged under five minutes per game and got to play in only 16 games.
Norton, who studied film in her brief time at Suffolk, said that transferring into Emerson was something she had always considered.
“Emerson was the only school I didn’t get into out of the seven schools I applied to,” she said. “I knew going into Suffolk that I wanted to be in Boston because I knew that I wanted to transfer to Emerson.”
The increase in minutes was an added bonus, Norton said.
“I was excited to get more playing time and to see how my talents had gotten better since high school,” she said, adding that the Emerson players were very welcoming and helped make the transition from Ram to Lion even more seamless.
Then again, Norton is a person for whom multiple roles come naturally. On the basketball court, she has played at both point and shooting guard, as both a starter and a sixth player off the bench.
“She’s somebody that I really don’t have to talk to all that much about ‘Hey, today you need to do whatever,’” said head coach Bill Gould. “She’s able to put herself in places where she can say, ‘If you need me to score I can score, if you need me to rebound I can rebound, if you need me to pass, I’ll pass.’”
Gould added that Norton is a strong defender both on and off the ball, and rebounds particularly well for a guard. In a contest against Pine Manor, she pulled down 11 boards to lead the Lions. The five-foot-seven junior is currently averaging almost 3.5 rebounds per game.
Before last season’s Suffolk game, Norton even acted as a player-coach at practice, breaking down her old teammates’ tendencies and pointing out overlooked nuances.
“She was a very nice assistant coach for us in that game,” Gould said. “It’s one thing to watch a film or even play one time a year against somebody and you think you know, ‘Oh this is what they like to do.’ She knew what they were good at and what they didn’t like.”
And while the junior was quiet initially after joining the team, Gould said she has found confidence and become a leader. Norton herself says she knows when to pull the trigger.
“Being a point guard, I look to create plays for my teammates,” she said. “But if there’s an opportunity to score, I’m going to take it.” Norton is third in scoring on the season, averaging over nine points a game, and also has the most assists with 72.
Junior captain Amy Sherman said Norton acts as a mentor to the freshmen.
Sherman said Norton can be found hoisting up shot after shot in the gym to perfect her touch or training in the fitness center.
Norton said she takes inspiration from her older brother, Liam, who has been deployed to Iraq twice. After serving his country in the Army, Norton said he will be joining the National Guard.
“Just seeing pictures of him from boot camp and what he had to go through, it makes me want to work harder at the things I do,” said Norton.
Norton said she and her brother, who is three years older, have always been close. Liam was able to watch his sister play against Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Emerson’s tip-off tournament this year.
“It was a nice surprise,” Norton said. With her brother in the stands, she led the Lions to victory with a game-high 13 points.
In her spare time, Norton has taken on yet another role.
“My brother was stationed in Hawaii, and when we went there to visit, I took a surfing lesson,” Norton said.
The Middletown, N.J. native said her proximity to the Jersey Shore allows her to enjoy the hobby back at home.
Off the court, Sherman said Norton is outgoing and fun to be around.
“She’s a goofball, and we do a lot of things as a team together,” the communication studies major said. “I’m happy I have that friendship with her off the court.”
But when it comes to the impending rematch against her old team Feb. 7, Norton is all business.
“I’m still a little nervous for the Suffolk game,” she said. “It should be a good game like last year. They want revenge, and two of my friends are seniors.”
And when it comes to playing time, the days of fighting for a spot are long over for Norton.
“She’s cemented herself as the starting point guard,” Gould said. “Without saying as much, she said ‘I think it’s time for me to go into the starting lineup,’ and she’s run with it.”