Whether it was her knee, quad or back, injuries never kept Eliza Normen down.
The redshirt senior forward for No. 9 ASU women's basketball suffered a knee injury in high school that caused her to miss an entire season. In her collegiate debut, Normen went down with an injury to her quad that forced her to miss her second season in a row.
After redshirting and missing her entire true freshman campaign, Normen returned in the 2012-13 season and played in every single game for the Sun Devils. That renewed sense of health and confidence was crucial for the young Normen, who has only missed a single game in four years since.
Normen said her development and injury prevention has been all about work ethic and mental toughness — two of her traits that stand out on the hardwood.
"Obviously it was tough," she said. "But I think taking each day as it comes and working my butt off every possession and every workout have been important."
That workhorse mentality has been evident on the court for a player like Normen, who utilizes her long arms and shot-blocking instincts to be a significant presence on the defensive side. As far as offense is concerned, Normen is a solid post presence that can sometimes draw a pair of defenders and allow for ASU's multitude of shooters to get open looks.
On a team filled with versatile guards and forwards that can shoot the three and slash through the lane, Normen's presence is also a vital one on the offensive boards and setting screens — an ASU offense predicated on movement without the ball needs players like her leading the charge.
Normen may not stand out on the stat sheet, but her contributions over the years have been timely for the Sun Devils. According to Sun Devil Athletics, Normen holds the record for blocks in a postseason game with five against Ohio in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament — a prime example of Normen doing the little things to help lead her team to victory despite not being one of its featured scorers by any stretch.
Off the court, Normen isn't as expressive as some of her teammates (it's hard for anyone to match the energy of people like senior guards Elisha Davis and Arnecia Hawkins). However, she remains a vocal leader in practices and in games while using her experience as a kind of teacher for the next generation of players to come through this ASU program.
Normen said she believes the sky is the limit for a 2015-16 Sun Devil team in hot pursuit of its first regular season Pac-12 title in over a decade.
"I think we are right where we want to be," Normen said. "I really do think this team has Final Four potential."
Common themes among groups that make final four runs in women's college basketball include chemistry and significant depth, and ASU shines in both of those categories. Having a player like Normen be the eighth or ninth player in head coach Charli Turner Thorne's rotation is a testament to that depth — anyone can step up on a balanced team that doesn't rely on a single player for more than a dozen points per game.
Turner Thorne said she is proud to have coached a group of fun-loving seniors that have shown great chemistry and discipline over the years. While Normen may have been one of the relatively quiet ones, Turner Thorne said she valued the opportunity to prepare her players for life beyond basketball.
"We need more female leaders in our society," Turner Thorne said. "Everything we do here prepares them for the future, and not just in their professional life but personal as well. Hopefully we've really taught them how to have healthy, positive relationships."
If these five outgoing seniors can foster personal and professional relationships like the ones they built with their teammates over the last four years, they'll find fulfillment in whatever they do — just as they did when they donned the maroon and gold.
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