Granby senior Nora Young named Naismith Hall of Fame WMass Girls Player of the Year

  • Nora Young, of Granby, shoots against Wahconah, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 at Granby High School. With this shot, she broke the school record for scoring in girl's basketball. By the end of the game she surpassed the boy's record as well. Young was named the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame 2020 Western Massachusetts High School Girls Player of the Year on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nora Young, front right, of Granby, looks for a shot against Wahconah defenders Jilly Cote, left, and Maria Gamberoni, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 at Granby High School. Young was named the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame 2020 Western Massachusetts High School Girls Player of the Year on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nora Young, center, of Granby, shoots against Wahconah defenders Jilly Cote, left, and Noelle Furlong, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 at Granby High School. Young was named the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame 2020 Western Massachusetts High School Girls Player of the Year on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nora Young, of Granby, celebrates with teammates after breaking the school record for scoring in girl's basketball, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 at Granby High School. By the end of the game she also surpassed the boy's record. Young was named the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame 2020 Western Massachusetts High School Girls Player of the Year on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nora Young, of Granby, lines up a free throw during a game against Wahconah, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 at Granby High School. The point helped her break the school record for scoring in basketball. Young was named the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame 2020 Western Massachusetts High School Girls Player of the Year on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/16/2020 5:34:30 PM

Nora Young showed Granby girls basketball coach Tom Burke she was special in seventh grade.

The Rams were playing at Sci-Tech in a junior varsity game. Young was at the free-throw line with 20 seconds left with her team trailing by one. The Cybercats’ boys team started yelling, banging on the bleachers and heckling her.

“You know how people get during free throws,” Young said.

She sank the first one to tie the game and glared at them. That goaded the boys to yell louder. Young, unfazed, made her second to win the game and stared at the boys while backpedaling down the court.

Burke, who was waiting with his varsity team for the game to end, ran to Young and told her “that was awesome.”

“That told me something about her. I never saw her do anything like that again,” Burke said. “I thought it was OK for her in that situation at that point in time. This is someone who’s got some confidence and some swagger in her and that’s not a bad thing.”

Young played for Burke on the varsity team as an eighth grader and started for the Rams for five years. Monday, she was named the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame 2020 Western Massachusetts High School Girls Player of the Year. Taconic’s Isaac Percy and Chicopee’s Kobe Parker were named co-boys players of the year.

The awards are normally given out during the Western Mass Senior All-Star games, but the event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was really awesome. I was shocked but I’m also so grateful and thankful,” Young said. “It’s always been a goal in the back of my mind like how cool would it be to get players of the year. It was always something I wanted to work for.”

Young didn’t even want to play basketball at first. She considered herself a soccer player and when her mother, Christine Young, signed her up for a D.A.R.E. basketball camp at Granby, Nora Young fought it with all of her being.

“I was like arguing with her weeks before I had to go,” Nora Young said. “I went the first day, and I came home and I was like I absolutely love it, thank you. That’s where it started.”

She didn’t give up on soccer. Young won four straight Western Massachusetts soccer championships with the Rams and played in the state final as a junior.

But every time Burke talked to her after soccer games, Young would tell him how many days remained until basketball tryouts.

“Basketball hits different with me. You forget everything else around you and are absorbed in the game. The people surrounding you are great,” Young said. “I’ve been able to find so many great people and coaches playing basketball that it’s made it so easy.”

Young was thrust into a leadership position early at Granby. Seniors Kate Sarnacki and Kate Sullivan suffered ACL tears during her freshman year, and Young became the Rams’ leading scorer and focal point.

“Kate Sullivan and Kate Sarnacki were at every practice and every game and they were phenomenal in helping someone they knew like Nora who was going to be in their stature,” Burke said. “That was something that was real important.”

Granby traveled to Hoosac Valley for the quarterfinals of the 2017 Western Mass. Division 3 Tournament, and Young was held scoreless for one of the only times in her career. The Hurricanes double-teamed her and focused on denying her opportunities. Young was disappointed, but Burke told her she’d have to get used to it.

“She took it as a challenge each year and improved her game,” Burke said.

Young became a better ballhandler and rebounder. Her court vision created easier opportunities for her teammates.

“I’d see old teammates or players that were older than me do stuff and I’d say ‘I want to be able to do that,” Young said. “The support of coaches taking their time to help me to get better is something I’m so thankful for.”

She developed a left-handed hook shot that would spin off the glass and in. Defenders struggled to block it because it left her hand at such an odd angle.

“That’s not something you teach. It was always one of those shots like ‘how’d she do that?’ That was her, something she developed,” Burke said. “I can’t take any credit for that one.”

In addition to working with Burke, Young spent her spring and summers playing AAU basketball with Mass Frenzy. As a freshman, current Holyoke coach Andrea Enright taught Young and her teammates to be excited for one another and celebrate when their teammates scored.

“At first the team thought it was silly and annoying, but pretty soon their excitement for one another become organic and genuine,” Enright said.

They were playing in a close semifinal against a team from New Hampshire. Nora was rested on the bench when her teammate Hanna Minardi of Longmeadow blocked a shot across the gym after chasing the opponent down in transition. Young leapt off the bench whipping her towel and screaming. Enright was terrified her team would receive a technical for Young being halfway on the court, so she grabbed her player and yelled at Young to return to the bench.

“That’s how Nora is. If you are her teammate she is your biggest cheerleader,” Enright said. “She’s the hype man, and she celebrates her teammates success just as if it were her own.”

Her own success filled the Granby record book. Young scored her 1,000th point as a junior. She became the school’s all-time leading scorer in her final home game at Granby. Young finished her career with 1,702 points and led the Rams in every major statistical category over her final two seasons.

“We were texting back and forth because of the announcement and I told her, she was thanking me,” Burke said. “And I was saying thank you Nora for bringing me along for the ride.”

It’s not Young’s last stop. She’ll continue her basketball career at AIC next season.

“I’m going to miss some of the aspects of high school basketball and how great the atmosphere is and how awesome it is,” Young said. “I can’t wait to see what next year holds.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.


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