“I’m not playing basketball for the recognition, but playing it for the love of the game.”
Ask Shaun Norris about his role on the Australian wheelchair basketball team, and he will play down his achievements and divert attention to the success of the national side.
As one of Australia’s leading scorers, the 3.0-player is willing to take on whatever role his team needs, whether that is shooting or mentoring teammates ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a player that I’ve always wanted to fill the role that is just needed,” said the 31-year-old.
“In the past, some tournaments, I can facilitate being a little bit more aggressive. Some have me as a bit more of a scoring threat, so [it] just depends really. With the personnel we have and what we need at the end of the day, I’m not really looking out there to go drop 30 on every team. I’m just looking out there to do what’s needed to win games.”
Norris has been part of the Australian national team for 15 years. His mantle is decorated with gold and two silver Paralympic medals from three campaigns. There are also two World Championship titles.
His scoring ability was on full display at London 2012. The Western Australian picked up 44 points to become the second highest scorer for his nation after Justin Eveson. That helped the Australian Rollers play for the gold medal against Canada.
Norris was top-scorer on the losing side with 19, but the 64-58 loss means Australia are now 2-1 down in their Paralympic finals rivalry with the North Americans.
“You know, it was only disappointing to get to the final and lose but in a sense you can look back and respect it for what it is,” Norris said.
“A lot of people want to be successful at this sport. It takes a lot of hard work and sometimes, a little bit of luck to get over that last little hurdle as well. It’s still a little bit disappointing not to have got the gold at the end.”
With September’s Paralympic Games approaching, Norris keeps a calm and methodical approach to his game. Amidst the accolades to which there are plenty, his passion continues to drive him.
“I’m not playing basketball for the recognition, but playing it for the love of the game. If there were zero people in the crowd or 10 million, I’d still be wanting to play the sport, enjoying it for what it is.”
Since making his Paralympic debut in 2004, Norris has witnessed the evolution of the sport, which has shaped his approach when playing other teams.
“The thing about international basketball is that … if you don’t respect the team you’re playing against you are just going to get smacked so, no matter what, you have to come for the game, with every intention of playing your best,” the Australian said.
“I think always, always, the top level, those teams take it seriously. But now from top all the way to the last team, it’s like all those teams are really professional, [from training] hard [to] recovery.”
He puts it down to individual players and their commitment to succeed – he is of course one of them. Rio 2016 can only ignite that fire.
“It’s amazing to see the amount of players that are really passionate about the game. They spend all their days, all their hours, training... doing something they love so [much],” Norris said.
Australia have been drawn in the same pool as Canada, Spain, Turkey, the Netherlands and Japan for the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.