By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna to CR connection is alive and well.
Last week, Huskies senior Ronnee Norwood signed a letter of commitment to play basketball for the Corsairs, becoming the latest Fortuna standout to join the local community college program.
After graduation, she will join a trio of former Fortuna players now playing at College of the Redwoods, including 2022 All-Golden Valley Conference honorable mention Gracie Betts, as well as Kendall Stewart and Lily Shelton.
And that connection, according to Norwood, played a role in her decision to remain close to home after considering a move down south to play at College of Marin.
“It came down to CR or College of Marin,” she said. “I decided to go to CR just because it’s close to Fortuna and I wanted to play with players I went to high school with.”
Norwood seriously considered going to Marin, but after attending some open gyms with the CR players and coaches, she was quickly sold on the local program and the team culture head coach Jain Tuey and her assistants are building.
“I was 100 percent going to Marin, and then I was having second thoughts about it, and (Fortuna) coach Tom Chapman told me to reach out to CR,” she said. “And I did, and I thought it was an amazing opportunity.
“I loved how they worked together and how they always talked each other up, and how the coaches are always positive.”
Tuey is obviously happy with the Fortuna connection — all three on the current squad played a big role this past winter as the CR women qualified for the postseason for a second consecutive season — and she believes the newest Huskies recruit will fit right in and play a pivotal role.
“Ronnee, I’m really excited about,” Tuey said. “I think she’s a strong player physically, and defensively I feel like she’s got the tenacity to go out there and disrupt offenses. I think she’s going to fit in great.”
Chapman also believes his former player has the talent and mindset to succeed at the next level after she battled back from an injury that kept her out in her entire junior season.
“Ronnee did an incredible job for us,” he said. “After missing a full year due to injury, she worked really hard and earned her way into the starting lineup.
“She is a lock-down defender. Her length and quickness makes a difficult matchup and she was key to us giving Eureka their only loss in league play last season. More importantly she excels as a student and as an inspirational leader. She will do well at the college level.
“I am proud of her and happy she is continuing to play basketball and further her education.”
That defensive toughness is what the CR coaches like more than anything, and the 5-foot-9 Norwood is expected to contribute as a guard/forward, with the quickness to guard the perimeter and the physicality to have an impact on the boards.
Norwood also brings a resume of success, having played major roles in undefeated seasons with the Fortuna freshmen and JVs before making the jump to the varsity level.
And that success is something she’ll remember from her time at Fortuna High, but certainly not the only thing.
“I’ll remember all the amazing memories I got to make with my teammates,” she said. “We’ve been playing together since we were 8 or 9 and I thought it was amazing being able to play with them in high school, and going undefeated as a freshman and sophomore.”
As for the next chapter in her life, Norwood appears to be taking it all in her stride and looking forward to the opportunity to grow as a player and as a person.
“I just want to build as a basketball player and as an individual, and as a teammate,” she said. “I feel we can go far as a team, and I’m excited.”
The Fortuna senior says her mom Melissa Norwood and grandmother Murlina Norwood have both been a big influence on her, and they’re not the only ones.
“I would say my biggest influences have been my teammates pushing me, Isobel Crosswhite and Gabby Stephens, and head coach Tom Chapman,” she said. “And my mom and my grandma.”
Ronnee will major in kinesiology and is keeping her playing options open for down the road, saying she may play at a four-year school after her time at CR.
“It’s a possibility,” she said.