Lakers 2011 NBA Draft prospect fan profile: Norris Cole

In this next installment of my coverage of the most promising players that the Los Angeles Lakers could nab during the 2011 NBA Draft, we'll be scoping out one of the only pure point guards in the class. Despite the fact that he comes from a small school and has flown a bit under the radar during his college career, this guy has plenty of weapons in his arsenal worthy of working alongside Kobe Bryant(notes). Considering the fact that they have four second-round picks, including 41, 46, 56 and 58, the Lakers would be pleased to come away with a player of his caliber. With that in mind, let's take a look at Cleveland State point guard Norris Cole.

Like I've discussed in my past two profiles on point guards Iman Shumpert and Ben Hansbrough, the Lakers have a rather glaring need at the point guard position this off-season. Veteran point guard Derek Fisher's(notes) career is running on fumes at this point, and the Lakers' offense and defense are both yearning for some youth to help make the transition to the post-Fisher era. Fisher struggled as a facilitator in the Lakers' offense and let quicker point guards get past him as if he had cinder blocks strapped around his ankles. However, a quick player with pin-point passing like Cole could be just what the doctor ordered.

Cole, who was an All-American Honorable Mention in 2011, is one of the only true point guards in this draft class. During his four years as a Cleveland State Viking, he had plenty of time to work on making his game as well-rounded as possible. With an compelling combination of scoring, passing and defense, he could easily be a difference-maker from the get-go in the NBA. However, at the same time, there isn't a particular facet of his game that stands out above the rest.

In the passing department, his abilities have slowly developed and progressed over the past few years. From his freshman year to his senior year, Cole's assists per game improved from 0.8 to 5.3. Just in this past season, he had two games where he hit double-digits in the assists column despite taking on the Vikings' primary scoring duties (third in school history with 1,978 career points). His court vision and tremendous basketball IQ helped him shred opposing defenses while feeding his teammates at will.

In the scoring department, Cole shined just as bright. By his senior year, he averaged 21.7 points per game and was the focal point in the Vikings' offense. He shot 43.9 percent from the field, 34.2 percent from three-point land and 85.3 percent from the charity stripe. He has impressive range and a promising jump shot to go along with a natural ability to penetrate the lane.

Even more intriguing is the fact that Cole is quite effective in the defensive department also. He displayed an ability to put opposing players on lockdown, forcing their teammates to make the plays. During his senior year, he averaged 2.2 steals per game and also did a tremendous job of crashing the boards from the point guard position. In the Vikings' 86-76 win over Youngstown State in 2011, he hauled in a mind-boggling 18 defensive rebounds, something almost unheard of from a 6'2'', 175 pound point guard.

Despite all of these attributes, they must all be taken with a grain of salt considering the fact that he plays for a school not known for breeding elite NBA talent. It's clear that he's a phenomenal basketball player with plenty to offer an NBA team, but the considerable jump in the level of competition will always raise a red flag. Lower-level talents are always expected to be big fishes in little ponds, which Cole was, but that doesn't immediately stamp a "guaranteed" label across his forehead. It also in no way means that he's bound for failure. Either way, he's going to have to work hard to prove that he deserves to be in the position that he currently holds.

The fact that he's a great passer and defender seems to make him a perfect candidate to fill the vacancy that Fisher should hopefully be creating in the Lakers' lineup. He fits their needs well and should be looking to shed the "sleeper" tag that gives general managers and coaches reason to doubt his possession of an elite NBA skill set. Whether the aforementioned general managers and coaches have enough skepticism to let him slip to the Lakers at No. 41 is another question. Cole is going to tear up the hardwood when he finally gets his chance, and what better place to do it than Laker Land.

Gil Alcaraz IV has been a diehard Los Angeles Lakers fan since Phil Jackson first landed in the City of Angels back in 1999, bleeding purple and gold all along the way. For more sports coverage, follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV.

Source:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/player/profile?playerId=37147

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Updated Friday, Jun 17, 2011