Andi Norman took the road to Dartmouth College as one of her coach's first followers.

She leaves with hopes of making an impact on an international level.

Pursued by several high-end academic schools during her junior and senior seasons with the Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team, Norman was on her way to American University in Washington, D.C., in March 2013 when assistant coach Belle Koclanes called with bad news.

"I had to cancel the visit," Koclanes said. "It hurt my heart to do it. We'd just lost in our conference tournament, we were on spring break and nobody (with the program) was on campus except me."

A month later, Koclanes was hired into her current role as Dartmouth's head coach. One of the first calls she made as she gathered her first recruiting class was to none other than Norman, who was coming off a junior season in which she averaged 12.5 points and earned honorable mention all-district honors in helping the Golden Bears to a Division I district runner-up finish.

And considering that Dartmouth was coming off a 6-22 season, Koclanes pulled out all the stops to make sure Norman didn't get away.

"I showed her and her parents a YouTube video called 'First Follower.' This guy is just standing on a lawn dancing by myself," Koclanes said. "After a few seconds, another person gets up and starts dancing, too. He was the first follower. And then, another. You get to the end of the video and dozens of people are dancing.

"We looked at each other eye-to-eye and I asked her why I would fly all the way out there to show her that video. I said, 'Hey, I might be crazy. You have other Ivy League schools after you, but I want you to join us.' I wanted her to be part of moving our program forward. She was one of my first followers."

Norman, who committed to Dartmouth 12 days before the first game of her senior season at UA and ended her high school career with a district championship, never regretted her decision.

After coming off the bench her freshman and sophomore seasons, Norman played a prominent role for the Big Green as a junior and senior. Playing both guard and forward as she did in high school, she averaged 7.3 points and 25 minutes per game as a junior and 5.8 points as a senior, starting 25 of 27 games and making 44 3-pointers.

Norman ranks ninth in program history with 113 3-pointers and 10th in 3-point attempts with 312.

"I remember laughing at that video, but I got the message," Norman said. "(By) my junior year, I was playing three positions (shooting guard and both forward spots). I was versatile and contributing more, and that gave me much more confidence. It just felt a lot easier to find my place."

Norman had a career-high 26 points against Maine during her junior season and came close to matching that total when she scored 23, with all but two of the points coming on 3-pointers, in a 103-70 loss at Ohio State on Dec. 15, 2017. More than 100 relatives and friends were seated directly behind the Big Green bench for the game against the Buckeyes.

"That night was so surreal," Norman said. "I grew up two miles away ... and we competed for three quarters against the 13th-ranked team in the country. I felt some pressure that night, but once I stepped on the court, all of it went away."

Norman, who majored in film and media studies, earned Dartmouth's Agnes B. Kurtz Award for being "the woman who best combines proficiency in athletics with dedicating to the furthering of women's athletics," largely on the strength of a senior project called "Play Like a Girl" that highlighted the challenges of being a female athlete. Eleven athletes from 10 sports were interviewed.

"Sometimes as a female athlete it feels like you're under the radar and it's a challenge being recognized," Norman said. "I've always been passionate about gender equality."

After spending the next several weeks at home, Norman will leave for Costa Rica in early September for a 12-month fellowship with Beyond Sports Tours. Her group -- which also includes former UA teammate and longtime friend Annika Wachtman -- will devise a program called Girls Leadership Academy for Service and Sport, a 10-day program for high school athletes that will debut in summer 2019.

"They have an overall mission to help connect the world through sports and do so by creating wholesome, immersive programs," said Wachtman, who played basketball at Capital and also traveled for Costa Rica for a service internship last summer. "I think it's absolutely incredible that Andi and I have this opportunity to travel the world and pursue our passions together. From growing up as neighbors to sharing a youth basketball career to being best friends in high school, this chance to share another stage in life together is exciting."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave