LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Norika Kono has already made a positive impression on her coaches and teammates both on and off the court.
"Norika is a natural-born hooper, " U of L senior Jazmine Jones said excitedly. "She can go get a basket. She plays the game so smooth, so effortless. She doesn't have to force anything. Her jump shot is just as smooth as anybody I know. Norika is a very good player."
U of L head coach Jeff Walz said he got an email over a year ago with video of Konno playing in Japan. He liked what he saw and followed up by seeing her with the Japanese national team at an event in Connecticut, talking with the national team coach, visiting Konno and her parents in Japan and then hosting them on an official visit. Two weeks later, she committed to the Cardinals.
"She's one of the most caring and giving people that I've been around," Walz said. "She lights up a room. You look at her and you smile. She's smiling all the time. Her English is getting better and better. Her work ethic is off the charts both on the basketball court and academically."
She's gotten an education from the girls she's around every day.
"School and language is hard for me now, but everyone is taking care of me and helping me, so I'm OK," Konno said. "I learned some words from my teammates, sometimes bad words, sometime good words. It's fun. Sometimes they use sarcasm. I couldn't understand that sarcasm. It's hard."
Her game will translate on the court. The 5-foot-10-inch guard has a smooth shooting stroke, a good feel for the game and can get to the basket. She played 26 minutes off the bench, scoring nine points in her U of L debut, a 75-56 win Tuesday over Western Kentucky.
The Cardinals host Murray State at 7 p.m. Friday at the KFC Yum! Center.
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