BOGACZYK: Victrum Finishing What She Started for Daniel
The Word on the Herd-Feb. 17, 2016
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – As Coach Matt Daniel has overhauled the Marshall women’s basketball program over the past four seasons, there has been only one constant.
From prior to the May 29, 2012 announcement of Daniel’s Herd hiring from Central Arkansas, only 5-foot-5 point guard Norrisha Victrum can say she’s seen it all.
The senior nicknamed “ReeRee” has been a Herd backcourt starter since her collegiate debut against Radford on Nov. 9, 2012 … and she’s become quite a different player from her 5-point, 7-turnover performance in 30 minutes that night.
“She’s been the only thing standing from when we came,” Daniel said. “She was here; everything else has changed, with the exception of Norrisha. The staff’s changed, the color of paint on the arena railings has changed, the players have changed.
“Everything’s changed except for ReeRee, and she’s earned that right to be in the situation and environment she’s in. It’s been very, very crucial … to my sanity.”
Victrum signed with the Herd in November 2012, with former Coach Royce Chadwick. Her early decision to stick with the Herd has paid dividends for her and Daniel’s construction job.
When Marshall (16-7, 6-6 Conference USA) visits Charlotte (14-9, 7-5) on Thursday night, the Columbia, S.C., native will play her 110th Marshall game and make her 102nd start. And if Daniel’s recent personnel rotation holds true, Victrum won’t come off the floor against the 49ers for more than 60 seconds or so.
In the last seven games, Victrum has averaged 38 minutes per game, and has boosted her scoring average to 10.0 with 19 and 23 points in her last two outings.
“I just want to enjoy the rest of my time here and leave it all on the floor – like I always want to do,” Victrum said. “If we win the rest of these games, we’ll probably have the best record that Marshall has had in women’s basketball in a long time, so I want to leave my mark and give my all because I’ve had a lot of good memories here.”
The Herd has won more than 18 games in a season only once in the last quarter-century (19-10 in 2004-05). With six regular-season dates and then the C-USA Tournament left – and hopes for a second straight postseason bid – Victrum wants to keep playing as long as possible.
There are multiple reasons for that attitude, too.
It’s been almost one year – Feb. 26, 2015 – since the point guard tore her right ACL in a win at FIU. Without Victrum, Marshall lost its next four, but went 1-1 in the Women’s Basketball Invitational to finish 17-15.
Following offseason surgery for his point guard, Daniel wondered how Victrum would respond. Then, junior McKenzie Akers tore an ACL in preseason and ultra-quick, 5-foot freshman Tana Driver was lost to a similar fate in an exhibition win in November.
Suddenly, Daniel had no true playmaking backup for Victrum … which – in addition to the “trust” factor -- is why she still plays so many minutes so deep into the season.
“When somebody comes off an ACL, you’re just never sure how they’ll come back,” Daniel said. “But Norrisha’s energy level is special. Her motor is about as high as I’ve seen for a kid that I’ve coached – especially one coming back from a knee injury like that. But she’s bringing more to the table than just her legs, and that is a true compliment to her maturity and her growth since she’s been here.
“She’s pretty aggressive by nature. I think she’s gotten more aggressive of late and I think that’s the more comfortable she’s become, the better she gets. And I also think it’s getting a little more important to her with the number of games to go (in her career). I like how aggressive she’s been of late.”
Victrum owns a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and her ability to develop leadership skills has been as crucial as her game on the court. In her four years with the Herd, 20 teammates have been first-year players in the program as freshmen or transfers.
“When I was going to sign, my dad and I took the visit and one of the first things my dad asked was what records can be broken,” Victrum said. “I was a point guard … assists, that kind of thing. I wanted to come in and start. I’d been a starter basically all my life at whatever level. But I knew it was going to be hard as a freshman and I knew there would be a lot of talent coming in the years after I came.
“And it just so happened that a couple of girls got kicked off the team and I was thrown to the wolves. And I think that was a blessing for me. It was an opportunity. My mindset was to come in and play as many minutes as I could -- which I did. Everything happened for a reason.”
Now, 3,547 career minutes later, Victrum has learned from more than all of that time on the court.
“When I tore the ACL, I think it gave me a reality check, that anything can be taken from you in the blink of an eye,” Victrum said. “It made me love and appreciate the game more. It gave me better leadership skills, just watching, what I saw in the game when sitting out, the approach in how I talk to my teammates.
“I felt like it brought me a lot closer to my teammates and coaches because they were a huge support system while I was down. I call it a blessing in disguise.
“I didn’t like that ‘Kenzie and Tana got hurt, but I didn’t feel any pressure having to play more because it was something I’d been doing. When I saw Tana come in and knowing ‘Kenzie was coming back this season, I thought, ‘Everything doesn’t have to be on me.’
“Well, it’s not like everything is on me now. We have a lot more talent. And point guard-wise, Tana made me a whole lot better this year. I’ve never had anybody play as great a defense as she did on me in practice. She really helped me in the offseason. And I hope seeing what I did this season – coming back (after surgery) – helps them. Go to rehab; come back aggressive. It’s not over.”
Victrum, who got her nickname at age 8 when a youth soccer coach struggled to pronounce “Norrisha,” does know her collegiate career will be over soon. Her coach just hopes she keeps rolling as she has as February turns into March.
“I’m very concerned about ReeRee’s minutes,” Daniel said. “I know she’s done it before but she’s got more miles on her … her tires are bald. She’s going on fumes right now and we try to manage that in practice as best we can, but it’s a tough task for her.
“It’s a tough task for anybody with two good legs much less somebody who’s had an ACL tear. What she’s doing is quite phenomenal … But she is playing within herself and doing more than I can ask her to do – which really is all you can ask.”
The 22-year-old senior nodded when told Daniel’s automotive references to her endurance.
“I do think it helped that I played those kind of minutes before, but it’s still a little hard because obviously I’m still not 100 percent in shape,” Victrum said. ‘I’m probably like 80. I didn’t get to do as much preseason conditioning with the team as I needed.
“But I think my drive and my competitive spirit to win – helping my team – pushes me. I don’t worry about getting tired. I worry about that after the game. I get treatment. In practice, Coach Daniel sometimes has me go every third possession. Coach understands my legs have a lot of miles on them. I’ve played 30 minutes every game I’ve been here, but he knows I’m going to give my all.”
She has averaged 32.5 minutes per game in her career, and Victrum will finish ranked in the top five in Herd assists. She needs 65 points to become Marshall’s 19th career 1,000-point scorer, too. She will graduate in May with a degree in Management (and a minor in Sport Management).
“I think about how Coach Daniel and I came in together and we’ve been through everything together,” Victrum said. “I’m going to be his first four-year player here, ever. I think when I leave here, Coach and I, we’ll always have that relationship. I’ve seen a lot of changes here at Marshall, in the team and program. It’s a blessing to be here for all of the positive changes he’s made in the team.
“I just feel like I’ve been living the dream. Graduating, it’s great, wonderful. It’s been a great opportunity. I can’t thank Marshall enough for what they did to help me with my education and basketball. Then, next, I want to go overseas. I’m putting in applications to do that; I’m going to go to some combines, try everything I can to continue my basketball career and if I doesn’t continue, I know it’s not me.
“I’m going to put every effort into it. If it doesn’t happen, I want to coach, probably college level if I can. But I’ll start my way up, AAU, whatever, something to get my resume up.
“I just want to stay close to the game.”