BEMIDJI, Minn. – Sometimes the youngest of six can be forgotten, but with the common bond of basketball, Zach Noreen grew up in a supportive family atmosphere that has helped him succeed and continues to guide him in his final season on the Bemidji State men’s basketball team. The tie that binds Zach and his siblings to the hardwood is their father, Jon.
“Growing up it was very competitive, but it was still fun at the same time,” Zach said. “I think a big part of us loving basketball was my dad never forced or pushed it upon us. He was a high school coach and seeing how much he loved the game, we wanted to show him how much we loved the game too. It kind of just grew on us.”
“I started off coaching before the kids were even born, so they were raised around basketball,” Jon said. “They were little gym rats. They would come to my practices and play 2-on-2 and 3-on-3, then get home and shoot some more. I know my boys would have calluses all over their hands from shooting basketballs. Nothing was forced upon them, it was just part of our family, part of our life.”
Maybe more of an influence on Zach than his father was his brothers and sisters. In addition to playing, he was watching his siblings find success both at the prep and collegiate levels. He remembers watching his sisters win at Albany High School, where Jon was the coach, and then saw sisters Joanne and Jennie win an NCAA Division II National Championship together at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“My favorite teams to watch was when my sisters played high school basketball,” Zach said. “They were very dominant and fast paced. Joanne was just feisty on defense, she was a pest. To see her still have that game in college, that was really fun to watch and I try to incorporate that into my game or at least I wanted to because she was always really fast and up in the opponent’s face on defense and causing havoc. Then for them to share that moment to go to the national championship game, sister and sister, both playing, that was just something I admire.”
In addition to his sisters at Minnesota State, Zach’s older brother, Jake, played a season in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, at University of Minnesota Crookston, while his other brother, Seth, decided football was his sport of choice and ended up playing at St. Cloud State University. Watching four siblings elevate their game to the collegiate level, and doing so in the NSIC, motivated Zach to follow the same path.
“My siblings had a big influence on me,” Zach said. “Knowing that pretty much all my family members played in the NSIC, I really wanted to get into the league. I ended up at Bemidji State and I’m glad I came here and I’m glad I got to be a part of the Beavers.”
“They were great influences on him,” Jon said. “He has seen the rewards and has seen what hard work does. I really forced the jump hook on him, and I guess that is his bread and butter now. Of course the girls all shot 3-pointers, so Zach had to do that from a young age and he has been quite successful at that too. Our family has been a great influence on Zach and it has been a fantastic run.”
Zach may be following in his family’s footsteps playing collegiately in the NSIC, but he is carving his own path of success at Bemidji State. Zach and his fellow four-year teammates and captains, Jake Schalow and Maxie Rosenbloom, have an opportunity to be a part of the most successful four-year runs in program history (own 68 wins, record is 71).
“It’s been great,” Zach said about the wins. “I was always playing with the top teams in Minnesota, playing up a level or playing with the A-squad. Getting that experience and wanting to win, I think that was a big part of my mental aspect.”
Zach played in just 11 games and averaged 11.9 minutes per game as a freshman, but appeared in 25 games as a sophomore, which included starting the final seven games of the season where the Beavers clinched an NSIC Regular Season Championship and made the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in program history. He averaged 5.6 points in 14.2 minutes per game that season. As a junior his role increased under first-year head coach Mike Boschee and he started 29 of 30 games with 9.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. The departure of a large and influential senior class enabled Zach, Jake and Maxie to take the reins of the program. What they have done this year has turned many heads, as all three have elevated their game to heights that even surprise themselves. Entering the weekend, Zach was averaging 17.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 56.3 percent from the field.
From a role player off the bench to a starting senior captain, Noreen has totaled more than 850 points and 300 rebounds, has compiled more than 100 3-pointers and is a career 50 percent shooter from the field.
“There is always room to keep improving, but I am surprising myself this year with my efficiency,” Zach said. “I am an undersize post - for the height-wise not weight-wise (he said with a chuckle) – which always helps when I move kids around with my weight. My shot is finally here and it’s consistent, so I couldn’t be happier with myself.”
“He has come a long way,” Jon said. “Last week, I happen to look back and he scored 50 points his first year here, now I believe he is about 130 points from 1,000. I really don’t care if he gets to 1,000, I just care if the team can win and continue their season. That is a big thing with our family, we are more team oriented and hope the team does well.”
For more information on the Bemidji State men’s basketball program, follow the Beavers on Twitter (@BSUHoops or @BSUBeavers), like them on Facebook (facebook.com/Bemidji-State-Basketball or facebook.com/BSUBeavers) or sign up for the TXTUpdates from BSUBeavers.com text-messaging system through the "Mulitmedia" pull down menu on the main page of BSUBeavers.com.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).