Norris and Heffernan Extend Basketball Careers with Cedar Valley Courtkings

May 20, 2016

Former UD men's basketball players, Andre Norris and Gage Heffernan, now suit up for the Cedar Valley Courtkings, a minor league basketball team based in Waterloo, Iowa.

Courtkings Official Website
Courtkings Introduction Article by Waterloo Courier
WATERLOO, Iowa – Former University of Dubuque men’s basketball players and All-Iowa Conference honorees, Andre Norris and Gage Heffernan, have helped kickstart Waterloo’s Cedar Valley Courtkings, a minor-league basketball team in its inaugural season.

Norris, known as “Stretch” to his teammates for his lanky build, and Heffernan contribute to a Courtkings squad primarily consisting of former standout collegiate players from teams such as Division I's University of Northern Iowa (UNI) and NAIA's Mt. Mercy University, but feature a handful of Division III players throughout the 13-team Midwest Basketball League.

Accomplished players in their own right, no matter the division, Norris was a consensus All-American, two-time Iowa Conference MVP, four-time All-IIAC player, and UD’s all-time leading scorer while Heffernan was a three-time All-IIAC selection and a former All-Region player at NJCAA’s Kirkwood Community College.

Both were handpicked by the Courtkings’ owner, Gary Rima, who is best known for his emphatic calls as the radio voice of UNI Panther football and men’s basketball.

Also involved in the fold is current UD shooting guard and intern, Jacob Mohlis, and his brother, assistant coach Michael Mohlis.

No stranger to the UD men’s basketball program, Rima’s familial ties and vocal talents run deep with his brother, Dennis Rima, serving as the Spartan basketball PA announcer after a 13-year stint as UD’s head baseball coach, and his nephew, Jacob Butler, a member of last season’s Iowa Conference Championship team.

Butler’s connection helped bring in UD’s dynamic duo.

“Jacob (Butler) told me his uncle, Gary, was starting up this new minor-league team, and said it would be kind of cool if I showed up to their try-outs,” said Gage Heffernan, a 2015 UD grad that is now the men’s basketball graduate assistant for the Spartans.

“After trying out, I eventually got the call from Gary to sign on,” added Heffernan. “Gary then asked about another really good player at UD too, Andre Norris, and those two later got connected.”

Despite their Division III backgrounds, both have appreciated playing with the likes of former UNI stars, Anthony James and Marvin Singleton, and the challenge of bigger, faster, and stronger competition through the first three games of the season.

“The level of play is significantly better, which is more fun especially for practices,” said Heffernan. “I love that, it’s always a challenge, and helps us get better every day.”

Arguably the greatest Spartan men’s basketball player ever, Norris has continued where he left off after averaging 14 points in the first two games, including leading the team with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting in dominant 111-71 victory in the Courtkings’ first-ever home opener on May 15.

Heffernan has contributed nine points, 13 rebounds, and five steals in three games played as the former 6-4 forward adjusts to exercising his floor-spacing, guard-like skill set from a post-up game utilized in college due to the uptick in competition.

Playing their home games in the friendly confines of the Cedar Valley SportsPlex in Waterloo, Iowa, the 13-man team faces teams across the Midwest in the brand new, 13-team Midwest Basketball League nearly every weekend from the end of April to the playoffs in mid-August.

Teams in their division include the Chicago Fury, Minnesota Rangers, Minnesota Broncos, Chicago Clovers, and Wisconsin Storm. Players suit up for two to three practices a weekend along with their game.

For Norris, the opportunity opens doors as he looks to ascend the professional ranks, but for Heffernan it’s a chance to rekindle his competitive fire and satisfy that “what if” itch.

“A lot of what if, might as well try it out,” said Heffernan. “I took this year off because I was coaching and recruiting, but seeing the guys in the grind and practicing every day sparked that back up in me. I couldn’t let that go.”

Focused on his education and nearly halfway to his Masters degree, Heffernan appreciates the opportunity and Rima’s efforts to provide the best all-around experience possible.

“We just had our first home game and everything was done full out, Gary is the man,” noted Heffernan. “He is very professional, he did it all to a tee with stats and fan entertainment and it’s translated to a lot of fun for me and I’m definitely appreciative.”

After leading the Spartans to a pair of Iowa Conference tournament titles as the most devastating alley-oop combo in the league, Norris and Heffernan look to utilize their Spartan savvy and winning ways into a successful inaugural season for the Courtkings.