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Sunday, April 3, 2011
Nored ready for title-game challenge

By Dana O'Neil

He is the most affable, likable and quotable guy in the Butler locker room, a kid who answers direct questions in anecdotes and can spin a yarn with the best of them.

Ask him how he'd defend President Barack Obama, he has an answer.

"I want him one-on-one on the court and I'm not going to let him go left," Ronald Nored said. "And I don't think he's going to score."

Suggest that trash talking the leader of the free world might not be a great idea and Nored grins impishly.

"I believe the First Amendment protects free speech," he said.

Nored is equal parts comedic and equal parts confident, a perfect combination of silliness and chutzpah that a guy needs to pull off the most difficult and thankless job on a basketball court.

It's a safe bet that no one will be watching highlight reels of Nored's game against Connecticut on Monday night. There is however, a good chance, if he plays his game well, people will be talking about him.

Butler's best on-ball defender, Nored will spend much of his day shadowing Kemba Walker, which explains why, when the Butler locker room doors opened on Sunday afternoon, the team's sixth man was swarmed like a starlet in front of the paparazzi.

Ronald Nored
How Ronald Nored plays defense will go a long way in determining the outcome of Monday's title game.
"His identity in his mind is a defender," head coach Brad Stevens said. "Those guys are pretty rare because it's not something that everybody's drawn to. I haven't seen 'SportsCenter' show a good lead step to shut off a driving lane in a while."

Nored decided back in high school that he would be a defender. It suited his abilities and more, it suits his personality.

Nored is a pest, a kid who admits, "I never shut up. I can pretty much talk my way into or out of any situation." He annoys his opponents in much the same way, relentlessly defending them like a gnat that just wouldn't fly away.

The list of his victims reads like a who’s who that became who can't against Nored: Three years ago, Steph Curry shot 6-of-23 and 2-of-13 in the swarming presence of Nored; Jon Scheyer was only 5-of-12 in last year's national championship game; and on Saturday, VCU point guard Joey Rodriguez was only 1-of-8.

Arguably this test is the toughest. Walker has been unbelievable in this entire postseason. After the national semifinal on Saturday, John Calipari thought he and Kentucky did a good job containing Walker. A good job still equated to 18 points by Walker.

Nored, who twice played Walker in AAU ball and twice lost, hadn't watched game tape yet but he was still well-versed in the mastery that has been Kemba Walker in this postseason.

"I’ve watched a lot of his games this season as a fan," Nored said. "I’ve been cheering for him when he’s been making all those big shots."

Now he has to figure out how to stop Walker from making all those big shots.

The good news: He won't have to do it alone. Butler has built its program on the foundation of team defense, switching and rotating with ease. The horrific night Florida's Erving Walker had against Butler (1-of-10, 1-of-7 from the arc) was due in part to Nored but not exclusively.

But certainly against Connecticut, Nored will have the primary charge of Walker. He planned to spend much of Sunday afternoon watching game tape, following his coach's lead of preparation, preparation, preparation.

"The great thing about it is people have tendencies," Nored said. "Everyone has something they're really good at and something they're not as efficient doing. In the next few hours, I'm going to break down his tendencies and then I'll try to force him where he doesn't want to go."

If he succeeds, plenty of people who may otherwise have overlooked Nored will stop and take notice.

So heads up, President Obama -- you've got next.