By Kedrick Nettleton OBU Athletics Communications Intern
For Zach and Caleb Norris, two players on the revamped OBU Men’s basketball team, being a Bison isn’t something new. For them, it’s a family affair; green and gold runs in the blood.
“I took my first steps on the OBU basketball court,” Zach says, as he smiles widely. “So that’s kind of a cool story.”
It turns out that the Norris family is full of cool stories, some of them decades in the making. Both of the Norris boys are looking forward to more than just the action of an upcoming season with their teammates this year. They’re looking forward to playing together as brothers for the first time on the collegiate level – and a year from now, their younger brother will join them on the squad.
They’re also looking forward to continuing an impressive family legacy here at OBU.
The history of the Norris family on Bison Hill stretches back decades. Scott Norris, Zach and Caleb’s father, was recruited to play basketball out of high school, starting his freshman year in 1987. He spent four years here competing under Coach Bob Hoffman. Scott’s junior year as a player saw the Bison ranked number one in the nation. “We had some good teams when I was there,” Scott says, “and some really good people.”
It was during the summer, at one of OBU’s basketball camps, when Scott was working the desk, that he first saw Wendy, the girl that he would eventually go on to marry.
“I hadn’t even talked to her,” he says. “I just looked across the room and saw her, and I told my friend that I was pretty sure that was the girl I was going to marry.”
Both of the sons chuckle when they recall the story. “I guess the rest is history,” Caleb says.
Both Scott and Wendy played basketball at OBU, and when Scott was offered an assistant coaching position after graduating, he didn’t hesitate. Doors kept opening, and in the early 1990s Scott found himself, at 25 years old, coaching the OBU women’s basketball team.
“I always wanted to go into coaching,” Scott says. “It taught me a ton. Not just about basketball, but about being a good human being.”
It was during Scott’s tenure as coach at OBU that both Zach and Caleb were born, and it was after a practice that Zach took his first steps on the OBU court. “It was a great family atmosphere,” Scott says. “We had a great time, had some really good teams, and had some really good players.”
Some of Zach’s first memories are of Oklahoma Baptist. “We were always at the games, hanging out. There’s lots of pictures of us here in the gym.”
So it would seem natural that the Norris boys end up as Bison, and for Caleb, this was true. He never hesitated. “Pretty much as soon as I was offered the scholarship I knew this was where I was supposed to be,” he says.
For Zach, the journey was a little more complicated. After being recruited out of high school to play at Oklahoma Christian, Zach fractured his ankle during the very first game of his sophomore season. What could have been the end of a basketball career turned into a blessing, due partly to his contagious good attitude. “Zach’s always been one of the most optimistic people that I know,” says the boys’ mother, Wendy. “There were times that were tough, but he was really an encouragement to me as I watched him battle back through that.”
His attitude paid off when Caleb gave him the news earlier this year: OBU had offered him a scholarship. The choice to come was an easy one after that.
When asked whether there was any hesitation to come follow in the family footsteps on Bison Hill, both boys laugh. “It was pretty obvious,” Caleb says. “OBU.”
Both parents are thrilled at the way things turned out, but Caleb and Zach are quick to point out that their parents weren’t a factor in the decision. “They would have been obviously thrilled for me to be here,” Zach says, “but it was never a big deal. They never pushed me in any direction.”
“I don’t think it was a natural decision for them,” Scott muses. “But I think they both feel blessed that they had the opportunity to make that decision for themselves.”
Scott and Wendy were tireless in their dedication to their children, in the same way that all parents of athletes are. There were endless tournaments, practices, camps, and games, endless fees and disappointments and successes. A commitment to sports is just that: a commitment. And it’s paid off for the Norris family.
“They weren’t just helping us with sports, they were helping us with life in general. They helped us get an education,” Zach says
The best advice that the Norris boys ever got from their parents? Caleb is quick to answer. “Basketball stays on the court,” he says. “Basketball never really followed us home, even though we were all out on the court together.”
That continues today. “Dad enjoys not having to coach anymore. He comes to games, and he’s just a spectator,” Zach says.
“There’s not many games we don’t go to,” Scott says with a laugh. “I like just being a fan, watching them play together.”
“It’s fun to come to games and see a lot of the same fans sitting in those green seats as when we were players,” Wendy adds. “It’s been a really neat thing to be a part of that OBU family.”
It’s worth noting that two other members of the extended Norris clan were also involved in OBU athletics. Loni Vaughan McIntyre, Zach and Caleb’s aunt, and their cousin, Madison Vaughan, both played softball on Bison Hill.
Having been involved in the OBU sports program for decades, Scott and Wendy have a unique, big picture view of what’s been developing over the last decades, and they are impressed by what they see.
“Having moved to the NCAA, there’s a bit more of a professional aspect to everything,” Wendy says. Both point to the updated facilities as a huge benefit to the program; Wendy thinks laughingly of the “closet” that her team used as a weight room. The expansion of talent, the updated facilities, and the people in charge all point to bright things in the future. “It’s crazy how much it’s grown in the athletic department,” Scott says.
More than anything, though, the overwhelming sense that one has in sitting down with the Norris family is a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation for the role that OBU athletics has played in their lives.
Scott perhaps sums it up best. “We’re just fortunate to have a great family, kids who are healthy, fortunate to have this opportunity. We’re extremely blessed. OBU has been so forgiving and accepting of me, and I love that my kids get to experience that.”
And with any luck, that blessing will continue for years to come.
The Norris Family