It's funny how life works. Just when you think you have it figured out, it throws you a curve.
Ernest Nortey figured he'd be living and working in a big city after college. Instead, the former Central Lakes College Raiders basketball player found himself back where he started his college career.
Nortey is back roaming the sidelines for the Raiders, this time as an assistant coach for the men's team.
No one is happier to have Nortey back than head coach Jim Russell.
"We've stayed in contact over time," Russell said. "I always wanted Ernest to come back this way. We're really lucky and fortunate there were some things opening on campus for him. I knew what kind of person I was getting."
That kind of person is someone who takes education and athletics seriously.
After his two-year career at CLC, Nortey, who's from Winnipeg, Manitoba, moved on to Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan. In his two years at Tabor, Nortey helped guide the Blue Jays to consecutive NAIA national tournaments. He received honorable mention on the Kansas Athletic Conference Association team as a junior and was all-conference first-team as a senior.
He received his degree in communications with an emphasis in computer applications. Nortey is working in the computer lab at CLC and will maintain the men's basketball team's Web site.
"I only thought I'd be back in Brainerd to visit," Nortey laughed. "But I had a good time when I was at CLC and with coach Russell. The relationships I had with people in this community were great. I see the game a whole different way now so I think I can help out the players."
One of the biggest things Nortey will lend to this year's squad is his knowledge of what it takes to succeed in college and in life.
"I don't want the players now to make some of the mistakes that the players I played with made," Nortey said. "I don't wish that upon anyone. I'll just try to help them out with whatever I can. Whether that's study table ... I'll encourage the guys to work hard. I want them to see the whole picture."
Russell points out that the players have gravitated toward Nortey's natural leadership abilities. Russell also believes Nortey is a perfect example of what a fish out of water can accomplish.
"Kids are looking for a leader," Russell said, "and that's what Ernest is. The unique thing about him is that he's done everything as a person of color and as an international student. The whole package is there. He grabbed on to us but we also grabbed on to him."
Nortey works with post players and realizes the Raiders are a talented team. Depth will be one of the team's strengths.
But, as Russell points out, the players will learn a lot about the little things a player needs to do in order to be successful.
"On the court Ernest was a very intense player," said Russell. "He was the kind of player that dove all over the floor. He will push the players to be more intense and get dirty."
For now, Nortey is still trying to learn the ins and outs of coaching. He's able to relate to the players better because, not long ago, he was in their shoes.
"As a coach you have to pay more attention to detail as to what the players are doing," said Nortey. "Playing is still real fresh in my mind and at the same time I'm at the point where I'm always learning. I'm really motivated right now."
Having a former player come back and coach alongside him has always been a dream of Russell's. It's safe to say Nortey was at the top of the list of players he wanted to have back.
"As a coach to get back an ex-player is exciting," Russell said. "Ernest's got a lot of energy and sees the game in a different view than I do. Just having him here adds another dimension to this community, this campus and our program."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.