Some old connections helped new North Texas coach Tony Benford this week to begin building what he calls a key recruiting class.
Anthony Norris, a 6-7 forward who played his senior season at Houston Christian Life Center and will be a sophomore at Midland College this fall, committed to play for UNT after visiting the school.
Norris grew up in Hobbs, N.M., which happens to be the hometown of both Benford and top assistant Rob Evans, who brought Norris to Denton for a visit Friday.
Norris committed to UNT by the end of the day.
“I know both of those guys because they are from Hobbs,” Norris said. “They grew up with some of my family members. Benford grew up with my uncles and my mom. That made it easier. They are pretty much family. I know that I will be taken care of.”
Oral commitments are nonbinding. The earliest that recruits in the class of 2013 can sign national letters of intent is Nov. 14, the first day of the early signing period.
Norris averaged 5.9 points and 4.7 rebounds a game for Midland last season and is expected to take on a larger role this fall for the Chaparrals, who play in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference, one of the toughest junior college leagues in the country.
Norris said UNT’s coaches plan to use him as both a small forward and a power forward.
Auburn and UNLV were showing interest in Norris. UNT was the first school to offer him a scholarship.
“He’s a really good athlete who shoots the ball well,” Midland coach Chris Craig said. “He can play a couple of different positions and will represent North Texas the right way. He’s a great guy for them to get in their first year.”
Norris was considered an elite prospect early in his high school career and committed to Memphis. He backed out of that commitment prior to his senior year and ended up at Midland after failing to meet NCAA academic eligibility requirements.
“He’s a good player,” said Jim Hicks of RCS Sports, a recruiting service that covers Greater Houston. “He’s long, athletic and can hit shots from the baseline.
“Tony knew about Anthony for a few years. It was a good opportunity. He knows him from Hobbs. Tony can go there now and people will have an instant appreciation for him.”
The addition of Norris will give UNT a jump on what will be an important recruiting class for the future of the program.
UNT has five seniors on its roster heading into next season, and sophomore forward Tony Mitchell is expected to declare for the NBA draft following the 2012-13 season, leaving Benford with the task of rebuilding the roster.
Norris met Mitchell, the younger players on UNT’s roster and the rest of the Mean Green’s coaching staff Friday. He watched UNT’s players work out and played in a pickup game afterward.
The visit sold Norris on playing for UNT.
“I liked the atmosphere and the coaching staff,” Norris said. “The academics are great. It’s a good fit all the way around. I also liked the players. They are great on and off the court.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com.