By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Kevin Noreen was a little known member of the West Virginia men’s basketball team until last Saturday.
That’s when the 6-foot-10, 250-pound redshirt sophomore from Minneapolis, Minn., suddenly became a star in the Mountaineers’ thrill-filled 68-67 victory over undefeated Virginia Tech at the WVU Coliseum.
Noreen was the ninth member off the bench. But he played a career-high 35 minutes during which he matched personal career-high marks in fine fashion.
The crowd of 11,631 became so impressed that fans chanted, “Kevin Noreen, Kevin Noreen.”
Yes, he admittedly heard a couple of those. “That was a first for me,” he said later, chuckling.
He scored 14 points on six field goals in 10 attempts, 2 of 3 from 3-point range, and tallied a game-high 12 rebounds.
Noreen also had one personal foul, one turnover and blocked one shot.
WVU head coach Bob Huggins said Noreen’s wasn’t a mere breakout suddenly. Noreen’s hard work over the past three years was the reason he performed so well.
Asked whether he’d call it his best game, he said, “Oh, I don’t know. It was just one of those days. Going in, Coach Huggins was saying we needed this win.
“It was supposed to be a springboard to games for the rest of the season.
“This was a big victory for us and a great team effort. I think it’s our best performance this season.”
In the process, the Mountaineers proved they really can make shots from 3-point range. They canned 10 of 24 such shots after making only 1 of 6 in the win against Marshall four days earlier.
“This has to be as good a feeling as I’ve had after a game,” Noreen admitted.
Huggins said Noreen is “a great role model” for any kid who wants to become a good basketball player.
“He shoots a ton of balls every day,” he noted. A team manager helps him by retrieving the balls Noreen shoots when practicing alone.
Noreen, one of two bigger players on the squad at 6-10, has been hampered by injuries at WVU. He played in 23 games in 2011-12 before breaking an ankle on Jan. 30.
The previous year he played in only seven games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. But he was medically redshirted to save that year.
Noreen was named Mr. Basketball as a senior in high school in 2010. With 4,086 points, he set an all-time Minnesota high school record.
Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said, “Noreen did a great job. He had to play like that for them to win the game — and he did. But we knew about him. He’s a good, strong forward.”
Hopefully, Noreen will become increasingly more proactive and in a starting spot.