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MEN'S BASKETBALL: In family full of NSIC athletes, Noreen making his own name at BSU

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BEMIDJI — Bemidji State senior Zach Noreen grew up as the youngest of six children in a family that included three other student-athletes in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

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Despite his sisters, Joanne and Jennie, winning a women’s basketball national championship at Minnesota State and his brother Seth having a successful football career at St. Cloud State, Noreen wanted to do his own thing.

“At our high school, a lot of kids went to St. Cloud or St. John’s,” said Noreen, the Avon, Minn., native. “When I saw my sisters went a little farther from home, I decided that I wanted to my own thing and see where that takes me.”

Four years later, Noreen is happy with his decision to attend BSU and acknowledged how much he has grown as a player in the program.

“I have grown a lot as a player here,” Noreen said. “Coming out of high school, I had no post game. The only thing I could do was a two-handed fade-away. Over the last four years, I have developed a jump hook and have gradually become an undersized post.”

As the youngest in a family that Noreen tabbed as a “modern-day Brady Bunch,” Noreen credited his father Jon Noreen — the girls basketball coach at Albany High School — for he and his siblings’ success in athletics.

“He influenced everything for us,” Noreen said of his father. “After school, my sisters would hide on the buses and sneak into his practices at Albany High School. He never forced the game on us though, it was our own decision.”

As a junior last season, the 6-foot-6 Noreen attempted 120 three-point attempts and made 39 percent of his shots from long distance. This season, he will still be counted on to be a three-point threat, but his main focus will be as an inside scorer.

“This year we brought in a lot of really good guards and wings,” Noreen said. “We already have a lot of guys out there that can shoot the three, but if my opportunity is still there, I will obviously still take it.”

“Last year he could get away with being more of a three-point shooter,” Bemidji State head coach Mike Boschee said. “This spring he improved a lot in our individual workouts and he knows we will count on him to score in the paint.

“In the past I felt like he would just float around the arc and look for his points. We still need him to be a three-point shooter, but our main focus is his inside scoring.”

As the lone returning starter, Boschee is counting on Noreen to be a force both inside and outside to help the Beavers be successful.

“He will be a huge factor,” Boschee said of Noreen’s effect on the team success. “Not only is he a big strong physical kid that can help on the defensive side, but he can create matchup problems on the other end to free things up for our perimeter players.”

Noreen’s best performance of the 2013-14 season came in the third game — a 103-56 win over St. Scholastica on November 23 — where he scored 25 points on 11-18 shooting in just 24 minutes of play. He added nine rebounds, eight assists, and three blocks in the win.

“He has done well so far,” Boschee said of his senior. “Last game against St. Scholastica was how I want him to play all year. He was a force inside that opened things up for our perimeter players. Combine that with his ability to step outside and shoot, it could be a pretty dynamic offense.”

The Beavers won each of their first three games and Noreen is looking forward to what the team can accomplish in his senior campaign.

“We obviously have things to work on, like all other teams, but we are looking good,” Noreen said of the Beavers. “I like how we are shooting the ball so far. Our biggest thing to work on is staying consistent throughout the game.”

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