The third school is the charm for Miles Norris, UCSB’s 6-foot-10 basketball transfer from San Diego.
He’d never set foot in Santa Barbara before his recruiting trip here, but it already feels like home to the former Oregon Duck and City College of San Francisco Ram.
“Reminds me of San Diego,” Norris said.
“I love it here,” he continued as he milled outside the Thunderdome before last week’s first official practice. “I love my teammates and the campus atmosphere — the people around here — and especially having the beach down the street.
“We like to ride bikes, and there are some nice places to ride around — to the beach and stuff like that. This is a great place to be.”
He’s a great player to have, according to his new coach and teammates.
“At his size, he’s an elite athlete who can really jump,” coach Joe Pasternack said. “He’s long, he’s able to get deflections on defense, and he’s got the versatility to guard different positions.
“And on offense, he can really shoot the ball.”
In the eyes on his new point guard, he’s lived up to his billing as last year’s California Community College Player of the Year.
“He’s got super-potential,” said senior Devearl Ramsey, who had Norris as one of his cohorts during the pod workouts that preceded Thursday’s first official practice. “In fact, the new guys are all fitting in like a glove.”
Norris, the longest stretch-four forward in Pasternack’s four seasons as UCSB’s coach, even fits the Retrospec bike that he’s been riding around campus.
“It’s a pretty big one, so I hope nobody can steal it,” he said with a laugh as he gestured toward the Thunderdome’s bike rack. “I do have a nice lock on that thing.”
Pasternack tried to lock up Norris early when he was recruiting for the University of Arizona.
“He was only a freshman then — I remember it to this day,” he said. “He was long and lanky, and it looked like he was going to be a Pac-12-type player. I kept recruiting him when he was a sophomore, and then I left Arizona to come to Santa Barbara … and he went to Oregon.”
Norris, a four-star recruit, was ranked by 247Sports.com as the third-best power forward in the West in the 2018 recruiting class. His mother, the former Christina Metzger, had been a two-time All-Nor Pac forward for the Ducks in the mid-1980s.
“It was a big family decision, but she didn’t force me to do anything,” he said. “I liked it there during my visit and it was actually ironic that I ended up going there.”
His mother, ironically, also transferred to a UC school — making All-Nor Pac at Cal during her senior year of 1985-86.
“She still has some skills,” Norris said. “I was in seventh or eighth grade when I passed her up in height. I probably beat her for the first time then in one-on-one, too, when I was in eighth grade.
“We had a basketball court at our apartment complex where I used to shoot every day. She’d come outside and teach me new stuff. She was my coach in the rec league when I was younger. She’s always been teaching me new things, as well as my dad.”
His father, Frederick Norris, also played basketball, although hip replacement surgery reduced their father-son rivalry to the shooting game of HORSE.
“He’d beat me with his bank shots,” Norris recalled. “He really had those down.”
Norris made Oregon’s nine-man rotation as a freshman during the 2018-19 season, averaging 3.3 points on 54% shooting in nearly 11 minutes per game for a 25-win team. The Ducks won the Pac-12 Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16.
“I got a lot out of that season, just competing against Bol Bol, Kenny Wooten and Louis King every day,” he said. “I think I got better playing against them, just coming to practice ready to compete.”
But he still wanted to play for the coach who recruited him as a young teen. He contacted Pasternack about transferring to UCSB, and even took in a Gaucho soccer match against Cal Poly during his recruiting trip.
“It was a great visit,” Norris said. “It was great seeing everyone throw tortillas onto the field.
“I didn’t get to throw any — I should’ve come prepared. I heard it was something they’d do but I didn’t know THAT many people would throw them. They were throwing those tortillas the whole game. It was pretty funny.”
Norris, a Dean’s-List student at CCSF, spent last season playing for the Rams instead of sitting out last season as a redshirt at UCSB. He used the time to hone his outside shot, leading San Francisco to a 30-0 record by scoring a team-best 16.0 points per game on 41.4% percent shooting from three-point range.
He also averaged 6.1 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.4 blocked shots for a team that was ranked No. 1 in the state for 20 consecutive weeks.
The Rams won the Northern California Community College championship and were heavy favorites to claim the state title when the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended last season.
“It was crushing,” he said. “We were getting on the bus, ready to leave, and then they canceled the (State JC Elite 8) tournament.
“It’s something we have to deal with this year, too — just handling adversity. You never know what’s going to come. That’s what we’ve talked about as a team from Day One.”
Norris claims to have learned about more than just basketball while at San Francisco.
“You’re on your own and have to handle all your own stuff,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of people doing that for you, so you’ve got to grow up real fast.”
It has the 20-year-old power forward ready for whatever awaits him at UCSB.
“Having already been place-to-place, I feel like I can adapt pretty fast,” he said. “I’m already getting used to things here … and excited to get the process going.”