The Mac Irvin Fire have been accustomed to having a star. And they've been accustomed to winning
Their 2015 squad doesn't feature a star, but their winning ways are still holding firm.
Zach Norvell is second in scoring, helping lead a balanced, scrappy rotation that features eight players averaging between 6.2 and 14.2 points per game.
Norvell, who stars at Chicago high school powerhouse Simeon Academy, embodies the attitude that the Fire are all about this year. They play pressure defense, love to get in transition and never take their foot off the gas.
The 6-foot-5 combo guard caught up with D1's Alec Kinsky on a variety of topics, including how he sees the EYBL as the perfect preparation for his senior year.
Alec Kinsky: You’re coming off a big win over a rival Oakland Soldiers squad. Take us through your EYBL Houston experience.
Zach Norvell: The Oakland Soldiers and Mac Irvin Fire is always a rivalry. Coaches are always talking crap. It was a big win. We had some guys in foul trouble, but found a way to pull it out.
Alec Kinsky: Circled that Oakland Soldiers game at the beginning of the season?
Zach Norvell: Yeah most definitely. Coaches told us that he hates losing to those guys. It’s always a good game, but they stressed we needed to win.
Alec Kinsky: What’s it like playing in the Mac Irvin Fire? Has te coaching staff been a big influence on you?
Zach Norvell: Definitely. They’ve had a lot of All-Americans. They know what they’re talking about. You gotta take whatever they say and run with it, because they know what they’re talking about. They also help you become disciplined, tell you what shots to take, help me with my shot selection. They just know how to win and finish a game off.
Alec Kinsky: What’s the biggest difference between playing in the EYBL versus at Simeon?
Zach Norvell: Probably finding my spots, finding my go-to shots. Just being able to be efficient and consistent. And being able to help my teammates. I’m playing with a bunch of guys that score for their high school teams, so I just need to learn to pick my spots.
Alec Kinsky: What about your team chemistry? Bryce (Barnes) raved about your team chemistry. Is that something that helps the transition to the EYBL?
Zach Norvell: A whole lot. Bryce is one of the key pieces to our team. He gets us going on the defensive end and also his fast break. The chemistry has gotten a lot better since the very beginning, we had a lot of guys take some time off and get healthy. Since we’ve been able to get some practice in, we’ve come out and played a lot better.
Alec Kinsky: What’s the best aspect of your game?
Zach Norvell: My jumpshot and my IQ.
Alec Kinsky: A lot of people speak highly of your passing as well. Is there something you’ve pinpointed in your game that you are looking to improve?
Zach Norvell: All mid-range. 15-footers. One-dribble pull-ups. Being able to finish with my off hand. Get by a defender and stop in the lane. I’m playing against big guys now, and the next level is college. So it’s going to be 7-footers and what not. I’ll need to be able to stop in the lane and pull-up.
Alec Kinsky: When you’re looking to pick a school, what is most important to you? Academics? Coaching? Playing time?
Zach Norvell: Everything tied all into one. Academics, somewhere it feels like a family. Being able to develop, get a little experience as a freshman. And also a winning program.
Alec Kinsky: You’re used to being at a winning program in Simeon and you’re going to be “the guy” next year. Is that something that makes you value this EYBL experience even more, knowing if you elevate your game right now it should make things even easier during your senior year?
Zach Norvell: A whole lot. You know, playing against the top guys right now is huge. Playing at Simeon I’m playing against good guys as well, but being able to see this and elevate my game right now is going to be big help for the team next year at Simeon.
Alec Kinsky: On and off the court, who’s been the biggest influence in your life?
Zach Norvell: My dad. Just from him playing division one basketball and him playing overseas. He’s been there. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s been on the stages I want to go. He st preaches not to take a day off, always working on my body. Even if it’s not on the court, being able to stretch, do yoga, things like that.
Alec Kinsky: What’s a typical day in your life during the school year?
Zach Norvell: Right after school, I get shots up at a park near my school. After that, I have a trainer who stretches me out. I have a yoga class I go to, get my body right. You have to play multiple games a day in aau, so having my body in good condition is big time.
Alec Kinsky; Has doing yoga improved your overall athleticism and flexibility?
Zach Norvell: Most definitely. Usually after an AAU game, I’ll be tired and won’t want to play another. But now after the yoga, classes, I’ve been able to be better conditioned and play a lot better.
Alec Kinsky: Any goals for the rest of the summer?
Zach Norvell: Finish top three in our division. Make Peach Jam. Win Peach Jam. Also we want to win a couple tournaments late July in Vegas.