It’s routine for recruits to say the place they’ve chosen for college has a family atmosphere.
For Ryan Norris, the phrase is more than an overused cliché.
The Keenan High senior signed with Auburn-Montgomery on Wednesday during a noontime gathering in the school’s media center. He could have played at Bethune-Cookman or Benedict, but Auburn-Montgomery offered familiarity.
Norris’ uncle, Bernie Norris, played at the NAIA school for coach Larry Chapman.
Former Keenan star Kip Small just completed his junior season at Auburn-Montgomery, meaning the two former Raiders get to be teammates for one special season.
Lower Richland High graduate Rod Shiver offered another connection to Chapman and Auburn-Montgomery. Shiver, who now owns Columbia-based RTS Management, was an NAIA honorable mention All-American player at the school in 2002.
It all made the choice easy for Norris, a 6-2 guard who is The State’s Class 2A All-Area player of the year.
`I’m really comfortable with the coaching staff,’’ Norris said. ``I already know they love me. They want to see you do good. They’ve turned out a lot of great players. I want to be one of them someday.’’
Chapman, who has coached at Auburn-Montgomery for 32 years, was also on hand for Norris’ signing.
`This is not just a basketball experience,’’ Chapman said. ``It’s much bigger than that. The story of this day is about Ryan doing the right thing. Today is to honor him for his good work and his good heart.’’
Ryan Norris averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals as a senior, leading Keenan to the Class 2A semifinals. Those kind of number often has a player focused on playing Division I basketball, which Bethune-Cookman offered.
'I’m surprised at the decision he made but I think he made a real good decision,’’ said Zach Norris, Keenan’s coach and Ryan’s father.
`I know he wanted to be on the DI level. But last week on spring break, we were riding around he said `Dad, I’ve made my decision. I want to play at Auburn-Montgomery. ’ I said, `Are you sure?’ He said, `They are the only people that made me feel comfortable.’’’
Ryan Norris joins a successful program. Auburn-Montgomery went 27-7 last season to make the quarterfinals of the NAIA National Tournament. The Senators are 75-21 over the last three seasons.