Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn led his team to a major upset over Mizzou Friday night. Here are five things to know about the breakout star.
The game was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NCAA tournament, and Norfolk State University — the 2012 Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference champions — won its first March Madness appearance in style, topping a Tigers team many had going to the Final Four.
In the intense nail-biter, No. 2 seed University of Missouri’s March dreams were crushed when it went down, 86-84, to a No. 15 seed program that had never beaten a ranked team.
It was only the fifth time a No. 15 seed bested a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, and the first time since Hampton University — Norfolk State’s neighbor in the Hampton Roads region — toppled Iowa State University in 2001.
Here’s the scoop on Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn:
1. He barely got to play college ball: O’Quinn flowered late. When he was graduated from high school four years ago, he was offered only one scholarship for playing college basketball. That offer was made by the little-respected Norfolk State. In the years since then, he has become a star, and he led the team Friday night over the University of Missouri with a massive 26 points and 14 rebounds.
2. He’s a New Yorker: O’Quinn is a native New Yorker, as are NSU head coach Anthony Evans (of Brooklyn) and assistant coach Robert Jones (of Queens). Hailing from Jamaica, Queens, O’Quinn is graduated of the Campus Magnet High School in the same borough. The New York connection with the team’s leaders is one reason why he was given a chance to play for the southern Virginia school. He is one of eight people on the team from New York, along with three others who went to high school in that general area, according to the New York Daily News, which reported that O’Quinn said, “I think you play a little harder when you play with people from your hometown.”
3. He’s humble yet ambitious: O’Quinn said in an amiable interview on the court after the victory Friday night that he never expected to play college basketball, let alone make it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. But, at the same time, he said that the only thing he can possibly do to pay his coaches back for the opportunity to play for a Division I team was to bring home a championship. So, even though he’s a nice guy, he’s not a pushover — and he’s hoping to take his team all the way. We’ll see how far that continues when the team faces off in the next round against Billy Donovan and the University of Florida Gators.
4. He’s a monster: O’Quinn has the combination of skills and physical attributes that are required in an elite center. He’s not only 6 feet 10 inches tall and 240 pounds but also agile, strong, and a great shot, which combine to create a tremendous athelete capable of going far in basketball. Before Friday night, you may not have heard the name Kyle O’Quinn, but now you’ll likely be hearing his name mentioned often in advance of the National Basketball Association Draft this year.
5. This is not his first great performance: O’Quinn has been dominant all year. Although Norfolk State has not faced too much serious competition, Kyle O’Quinn has been a solid presence for his team during the entire 2012 season, averaging 15.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. So, even though Friday featured an absolutely crushing showing by the senior, he’s been great all year, leading his Spartans to a 26-9 overall record. He’s a player to watch as the tournament goes on. March Madness at its finest!