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Longtime boys coach has high hopes for Lady Buffs

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New Manteca High girls basketball coach Cody Norman defends Elizabeth Tolbert while demonstrating a drill in practice Saturday morning.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED November 26, 2012 1:58 a.m.

Cody Norman’s transition from coaching boys basketball to girls has been smooth so far.

The Elk Grove native considers himself to be fortunate in his first season as Manteca High’s girls hoops coach after assisting Dave Asuncion on the varsity boys staff last year. He is guiding a veteran core of returning players that includes heralded newcomer Courtney Range.

Norman replaces Andrea Hiatt, who stepped down after her eighth season as the head coach. Hiatt compiled a 103-79 record and led the Buffaloes to five Sac-Joaquin Section postseason appearances and Valley Oak League title runs in her final two years.

“Coach Hiatt has done an awesome job here, so I definitely have some big shoes to fill with back-to-back titles looming over my shoulder,” Norman said. “The fundamentals that these girls have and their IQ are already high enough to where I don’t have to do a whole lot of teaching.

“Right now we’re going through new plays and the girls are coaching each other. Usually it’s me having to tell each player what to do, but they’re able to coach each other on the floor which is a big help.”

Norman’s coaching career began at his alma mater soon after graduating from Laguna Creek in 1997. He was part of Laguna’s varsity boys staff during its run to the 1999 and 2005 Division I section championships.

Norman began a four-year head coaching stint at Florin High in 2006 and left for Southern California following the 2008-09 school term. He coached Hamilton High’s boys squad for the 2010-11 season and was named Manteca’s girls head coach last May.

Four-year starter Mikayla Hasal has been instrumental in the program’s transition to a new coach. The Cal State Stanislaus-bound point guard is becoming more of a vocal leader to complement the more easy-going demeanor of Norman.

“It was a difficult transition, to be honest, but coach Norman is doing a good job,” Hasal said. “He’s a lot more relaxed than coach Hiatt, so we’re kind of anticipating how he’s going to be during games. We all think that soon enough he’s going to come out and get on us a little more.”

There may be games in which Norman has little need to do much speaking.

Enter Range, an impressive 6-foot-2 Cal-Berkeley signee and five-star prospect touted by ESPN as the nation’s fifth best high school wing player.

“With Courtney coming in, it’s a different game for us,” Hasal said. “Our offense and our defense kind of revolve around her.”

Range, a Manteca resident, previously starred for Stockton power St. Mary’s, helping the Rams earn the California Interscholastic Federation Division II state championship as a sophomore and the NorCal finals last year.

“It’s definitely a change, a lot different, but it’s still fun,” Range said of her time so far at Manteca. “I grew up with a lot of these girls, so it’s not like I’m going somewhere brand new. I fit it right away, and it’s only five minutes from home.”

Range’s anticipated debut will not be tonight’s Foundation Game against Ripon, or even the team’s official season opener on Dec. 5 at West.

Last May, the CIF approved a change to its transfer policy. Student-athletes who transfer without a change of residence are required to sit out 30 to 35 days.

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