SALEM — Things didn’t get off to the best of starts for Saugus native Norma Waggett when she began her senior season on the Salem State women’s basketball team back in November.
The Vikings dropped six of their first seven games as they adjusted to a new system under first-year coach Al Berger. As the season has taken its course, the Vikings have found their stride and are moving in the right direction.
Salem State has won five of its last 11 games and Waggett reached a career milestone when the Vikings thumped MASCAC rival Fitchburg State in a 77-65 win last Wednesday.
Needing 2 points to crack the 1000-point plateau, Waggett, a guard, scored 14 to become the first Vikings player to reach the milestone since Rachel Carter in 2014.
“It wasn’t a weight off my shoulders but it was nice to get it out of the way so we could get down to business and get the win,” Waggett said.
Waggett was joined by family members, friends and teammates as she celebrated her career achievement and a Salem win. With the victory the Vikings earned a bid in the MASCAC Tournament, which tips off on Feb. 20.
“My parents and my boyfriend were there,” Waggett said. “(Men’s basketball assistant coach) Bobby Verdun was there too and he’s been a big support for me this season. We’ve been training together and he works with me on my shot. We fix any doubts I have. Bobby’s been my go-to guy this year.
“We didn’t celebrate until after the game,” Waggett added. “I wanted to wait until after it was done. I did it in high school and went through the whole ‘stopping the game’ thing. I was more happy that we won the game because it secured a spot for us in the (MASCAC) Tournament.”
A three-year varsity player at Saugus High, Waggett was also a 1,000-point scorer in her days wearing the Sachems uniform. She joined the women’s team at St. Joseph’s in Maine after graduation. Waggett spent her first two seasons at St. Joseph’s before transferring to Salem State, where she joined the Vikings as a junior in 2016.
“I love being close to home,” Waggett said. “I’ve met great girls at Salem. It’s nice being able to see my family supporting me and watching me play.”
After a sour start this season, the Vikings are back in the thick of things as they aim for late-season push. Salem State is 8-14 on the season and has won four of its nine games against MASCAC opponents.
It took the Vikings a while to gel but Waggett feels as though a strong close to the season can help them make a push in MASCAC.
“I think the key has been playing united,” Waggett, the Vikings’ captain, said. “We really bought into the fact that we’re a competitive team this year. Salem’s a team that opponents, over the past few seasons, think they can roll over. We’re a team that believes in ourselves and buys into the mentality that nobody can stop us. Every game has been close down to the end.”
In 22 games, 16 starts, Waggett has posted averages of 11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. She’s shooting 33.8 percent from the floor and 70.7 percent from the charity stripe.
On the academic side of things, Waggett’s on pace to graduate this spring with a degree in exercise science. She’s a dean’s list student who keeps a busy schedule that includes a part-time job at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Saugus and an internship at Orangetheory Fitness in Swampscott, in addition to her basketball commitments.
“I’ve kind of mastered the whole athlete, work and school thing,” Waggett said. “I only work on the weekends. I love my internship. I have a pretty busy day every day.”
Moving forward, Waggett plans to continue her basketball career at the professional level. Her goal is to play overseas in Ireland, following the footsteps of her father, Mike.
“I have to go to a couple tryouts and then I decide what part of Ireland I want to play in and where I’ll go from there,” Waggett said. “Bobby’s helped me a ton with that. We’re just getting started because I’m focusing on ending the season on a positive first.”
Waggett isn’t the only member of her family playing college hoops. Her younger brother, Matt, is in his freshman season on the men’s basketball team at Clark University in Worcester.
“It’s awesome, we always talk about basketball,” Waggett said. “We’ve always complemented each other. Matt really helps me a lot with shooting and offensively. I’ve helped him with working out and getting in better shape. Having our dad around, we’ve always had nice family workouts together.
“If you’re the hardest worker in the gym you’re going to be successful,” Waggett added. “I’ve always told Matt to keep his head down and that his opportunity’s going to come. There’s going to be ups and downs and bad days but you have to continue working hard. That’s going to help him in life too.”
The Vikings are back in action this evening (5:30) when they visit Bridgewater State.