SI Vault
 
25. Illinois
Hank Hersch
November 19, 1986
If Ken Norman's 6'8", 215-pound frame isn't imposing enough, there are the three gold ropes that dangle from his neck, each with a 14-karat bauble affixed. One medallion spells out SNAKE, which describes the elusive Norman, who was once known as Ken Colliers and whose brother is NFL receiver Bobby Duckworth. Norman got the nickname as a serpentine playground kid in Chicago. "I thought he'd be a decent player," says Illinois coach Lou Henson of the juco transfer. "Maybe a starter, maybe not." Norman was not for most of his first year with the Illini, but in his junior season he emerged as the lone true force (16.4 points, 7.1 rebounds per game) on a team of underachievers.
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November 19, 1986

25. Illinois

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If Ken Norman's 6'8", 215-pound frame isn't imposing enough, there are the three gold ropes that dangle from his neck, each with a 14-karat bauble affixed. One medallion spells out SNAKE, which describes the elusive Norman, who was once known as Ken Colliers and whose brother is NFL receiver Bobby Duckworth. Norman got the nickname as a serpentine playground kid in Chicago. "I thought he'd be a decent player," says Illinois coach Lou Henson of the juco transfer. "Maybe a starter, maybe not." Norman was not for most of his first year with the Illini, but in his junior season he emerged as the lone true force (16.4 points, 7.1 rebounds per game) on a team of underachievers.

Another medallion is a ball-in-hand figurine, which represents Norman's desire to change from Snake to Person. "The two times I saw Chuck Person play last year, I just idolized his game," says Norman of the same-sized, former Auburn star. So he spent the summer adapting one of the country's most devastating inside games—his 64.1% field goal accuracy is the best among all returning players—to the perimeter. In pre-practice scrimmages, dead-eye guard Doug Altenberger was actually feeding the Snake for three-pointers.

Finally there is the Mercedes. Riding high on his chest, the miniature gilded car inspires Norman's conquests. "I have aspirations of owning one one day," he says. At the rate he's going, Norman will buy the Benz—with a solid-gold hood ornament—because he'll be the top pick in the NBA draft.

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