Ronald Nored exudes class, dignity, honor and decency. Just a great human being. The Butler University sophomore from Homewood just finished up an amazing season as the point guard on a team that made it to the national championship game beating the likes of powerhouses Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State along the way and came up literally inches from winning it all. Gordon Hayward's halfcourt shot at the buzzer bounced off the backboard and just off the front of the rim as time expired. If Hayward had laid it up just a hair softer it's good and Butler is the national champion. But what a run.
Caught up with Ronald by phone yesterday. We talked about his Homewood experience, his Butler years so far, his incredible family and life in general. This young guy is all about doing the right thing all the time. He has a strong belief in God, and that helps make him the person he is.
Ronald said his years at Homewood were unforgettable.
"Coach (Tim) Shepler taught me to be focused on basketball," Nored said. "My Homewood friends are my best friends and that'll never change. We believed in our system, we believed in each other and we believed in our coaches. If you do that you can achieve as much as you want."
Nored had committed to Western Kentucky, but when Darrin Horn left Western to become coach at South Carolina, Nored switched over to Butler and became a mainstay on a team this year that won their last 25 games of the season before the Duke game in the finals.
Nored was one of 10 or 11 seniors who led his Homewood team to the state championship game. I asked him if his team overachieved his senior year.
"We expected to be there," he said. "We achieved what we thought we could. We all loved each other and all played together."
He had an opportunity to go to Harvard on an academic scholarship, but decided on playing basketball and going to school at Butler. His mom wanted him to go to Harvard, but his decision has paid off for him. He wants to be a coach when he graduates and is coaching an AAU team this summer in Indianapolis and preparing for next season. He will spend 30-35 minutes a day shooting and running drills. He wants to get his outside shooting down along with his mid range game. He also wants to improve on managing the game. He showed a lot of clutchness in the postseason, particularly his two free throws that helped ice the game against Michigan State. He also made a lot of key steals, a couple against powerful Kansas State in the Elite Eight.
He loves playing for 33-year old coach Brad Stevens.
"I look up to him as much as anybody I've ever had because of the kind of person he is," Nored said. "He really enjoys mentoring beyond basketball. He does a lot of things other coaches don't think about."
I asked him to give an example.
"He's a great family man, and he supports us. We'll be in the huddle in the middle of a game and he'll talk about your life in a few years and how the next play you can apply to how you're going to live your life in a few years. I've never heard that before. I don't think many people value that."
Nored also says Stevens is the best game day coach in the game. "He always is drawing up something we can counter with or something we can attack with. He's the best in the game. He motivates with real life examples."
Nored says Stevens doesn't tolerate being late to a meeting or a practice. That is unacceptable. He doesn't yell or scream, according to Nored, but he gets his point across when he's upset.
Nored's teammate Hayward, a sophomore, is contemplating leaving early for the NBA. They haven't talked and Nored says he will support his teammate whichever direction he decides to go. If Hayward comes back, the Bulldogs will once again be in the mix for the national title. Even if he doesn't, Nored feels good about next year.
"We started the season talking the first day about winning the national championship then we played for each other, sacrificed for each other. We expected to win every time we came out and we won 25 in a row up to the Duke game."
I asked Nored if he was nervous heading into the national champ game.
"After playing so many games and beating so many good teams, there was no room to be nervous. I was very focused on what I had to do. I was very fortunate to play in the national championship game, not too many people get to do that. It was something I could enjoy and be focused about. Going into the game I was ready to play."
The key to Butler this season was their defense. They allowed less than 60 points per game. Nored said he and his teammates took a lot of pride in that.
"We knew if we didn't play defense, we don't win games and I was a small part of it. It was literally a complete team effort for all five guys on the court and on the bench.We beat a lot of people because of our defense."
Ronald's greatest influences are his family and his belief in God. His dad, Ron Nored Sr., was a leader in his community and a wonderful mentor to his son.
"He was an unbelievable person. He passed away when I was 13. The way I saw him interact with other people was just incredible. I don't know anyone who didn't like him. He made you feel like you were a special person. He really made you feel like you were important with whatever was going on at the time. Hopefully, I have some of that in me. He was a great guy to be around and a wonderful dad. He will continue to live on through me, my brother and my mom, and all the people who had the opportunity to be around him."
Ron Sr. started the Bethel Ensley Action Task Force and cleaned up his neighborhood making it better for all the people that lived there. He truly touched a lot of people. He died of pancreatic cancer at 43. Ronald is at peace with his father's death now.
"It was hard at first, but now it's a celebratory kind of thing. He lived a great 43 years and there is nothing to be sad about. With what he did in the short time that he lived, you can't be anything but happy about that."
Ronald's mother, Linda, commuted all season from Homewood to Indy via Louisville (she would fly to Lville and drive to Indy) to watch him play. She was there throughout the Final Four, of course.
"Our relationship has gotten a million times better through the years," he said. "I'm happy to say that she's my mom. People enjoy being around her as well. We have a strong faith in God."
Ronald is also especially proud of his brother, Randall, who received a Community Service scholarship to Carson Newman College in North Carolina. "He played football and averaged 16 tackles a game this year," Ronald said.
Ronald is excited about the summer and improving his basketball game and coaching his AAU team and learning the ins and outs of coaching. He is coming home at the end of this month for 12 days.
"I talk to all my Homewood teammates. They're my best friends. My teammates here (at Butler) are awesome. We've gotten very close in the last year. I'm loving it all."
And being the best person he can be. Which is pretty special.
(Photo from Butlersports.com)