Patrick Finley: Great UA shooter now rebounding

2010-07-19T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:51:08Z Patrick Finley: Great UA shooter now reboundingPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 19, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Coniel Norman has a home now, an address not far from where he made his name as a Detroit high school superstar.

The Wildcats' career scoring average leader has a mobile phone, too, and is a 10-week training program away from feeling comfortable enough to begin looking for work as a landscaper.

His family, once unable to locate him, is close by.

He is found.

He is home.

"I'm happy," he said. "I'm finally happy again."

Last July, Norman's niece, Cassie, contacted the Star and others begging for any information that might lead to her uncle's whereabouts.

His friends and family hadn't seen him in years, if not decades. No one was sure he was alive.

In February, homeless, Norman checked into a Los Angeles hospital. A social worker tracked down his sister and niece, who brought the 56-year-old home to Detroit.

Thursday, he appeared alongside Detroit mayor Dave Bing, an NBA contemporary, to christen Piquette Square, a $23 million complex that provides housing and social services for homeless veterans.

Norman lives there now.

"I'm sorry that I didn't get in contact with anyone," he said by phone. "They might have thought the death thing had happened. I can only say I'm sorry about that.

"I'm fine. I'm doing fine. I'm enjoying life here in Detroit."

Nicknamed "Popcorn," the sharpshooting Norman scored 24 points per game as a UA freshman in 1972-73 and 23.8 as a sophomore.

After two seasons, he declared financial hardship and left as the school's career scoring average leader with 23.9 points per game.

He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers and played with them for two years. In 1978, he returned to the NBA for a short stint with the San Diego Clippers.

Many in the UA family lost touch after that.

Norman said he played eight seasons of pro basketball in Germany, and that he served in the Army from 1979 to 1983 before moving to Los Angeles, where he lived until February.

Norman, who has one daughter, described his life as having "valleys and peaks." After basketball, he said, he "had no idea what I was good at, or what I wanted to do."

Norman said he was a mental health counselor for 14 years before losing his job and facing financial ruin.

He hadn't seen Detroit, or most of his friends and family, in more than 20 years.

Asked why, Norman was vague.

"I don't want to go there," he said. "That's too emotional."

When he was reunited with his three sisters and one brother, all Detroit residents, for the first time in a generation, Norman was struck.

"We were all in tears," he said.

Norman hasn't been to Tucson in more than 30 years, but said his college days were some of the best times of his life.

"I loved it there, actually," he said.

Norman's recent history isn't simple, and probably isn't pretty, given his reluctance for details and his distance from loved ones.

None of that matters now.

UA great Bob Elliott first met Norman when he was 16. From Ann Arbor, Mich., Elliott joined Norman's Detroit team by claiming his address was that of the aunt of Eric Money, another future Arizona basketball player.

Elliott, who has not seen Norman in 30 years, is going to Detroit next month. He now knows where to find him.

"I'm just going to hug him," he said. "I'll say, 'Hey man, the past means nothing in terms of whatever you've been through. You are here now.'

" 'What can we deal with, with the present and the future?'"

Norman said he's excited to see old friends, and family, again.

Once ashamed to talk of his basketball past, Norman laughed when asked about his shooting prowess.

"I can still shoot the ball," he said. "I can't jump that high, but I can shoot it."

THE FINLEY FIVE: FIVE THINGS WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT THIS WEEK

Diving!

1Starting Friday, Hillenbrand Aquatic Center will host USA Diving's Age Group and Junior National Diving Championships. Put on some sunscreen and check it out.

Almost there

2Two weeks from Tuesday, newcomers report to the Arizona Wildcats football team, beginning a month of preseason work before the opener at Toledo. Can you wait?

Le end

3Le Tour de France comes to an end Sunday with an anomaly. The final stage, on the Champs-Elysees, is the shortest part of the race. In fact, it's the shortest flat stage since 1989.

The deadline

4I'm a baseball geek, and I love the July 31 trade deadline. One pressing question this year - will the Diamondbacks entrust their interim general manager to deal some of their hot young players?

Backpacks!

5The first 1,000 kids aged 5-12 who walk into Hi Corbett Field on Saturday will receive a Tucson Toros back-to-school backpack. Oh, and they see the St. George RoadRunners, too

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Arizona State 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
California 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Colorado 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Oregon 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Oregon State 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Stanford 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
UCLA 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
USC 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Utah 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Washington 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000
Washington State 0 0 0 0.000 0 0 0 0.000

AP Top 25


Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Azusa Pacific at
Washington State
11/7 12:00 am
Cal Poly Pomona at
Arizona
11/9 4:00 pm
Mount St. Mary's at
Arizona
11/14 6:00 pm
Coppin State at
Oregon
11/14 10:00 pm
Detroit at
Oregon
11/17 9:00 pm
Cal-Irvine at
Arizona
11/19 7:00 pm
Oral Roberts at
Oregon State
11/21 7:00 pm
Texas-Pan American at
Utah
11/26 6:00 pm
Northern Colorado at
Colorado
12/13 4:00 pm
Washington State at
Santa Clara
12/13 8:00 pm
Grambling at
Oregon State
12/15 8:00 pm
Grambling at
Washington
12/17 9:00 pm
Free Wildcats Sports Newsletter

University of Arizona sports news and blog headlines, delivered daily

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...