Throughout history, hundreds of players from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUS) have made their mark in the NBA. That continued last month when the Orlando Magic drafted Norfolk State University center Kyle O’Quinn.
A standout at the HBCU, O’Quinn was the 49th overall pick in the second round of the NBA draft on June 28.
During a press conference on Monday, the team introduced O’Quinn and their first round pick, Andrew Nicholson.
“For me and my family, this is a tremendous opportunity and blessing. This is a great and respected franchise, which is well known,” said O’Quinn.
In O’Quinn, the Magic saw not only basketball skills but character traits they liked.
“Kyle is mature and has high character. We admire his toughness and will to win. He brings a hard-nose mentality. He wants to help his team anyway that he can.
Kyle, like Andrew, when we spoke to people about them no one had anything bad to say about them,” commented Orlando Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan.
Although the Magic look to trade their All-Star Center Dwight Howard, O’Quinn is excited about the possibility of playing with him. “It’s exciting to be on a team with such a superstar. There is a lot that I can learn from him,” said O’Quinn.
O’Quinn is a 6-10, 240-pound athletic big man from Queens, New York, who took an unlikely road to the NBA. He didn’t play organized ball until his senior year of high school at Campus Magnet High. “I made the JV team in ninth grade but ended up being the team manager,” recalled O’Quinn. O’Quinn admits that he didn’t grow up with NBA dreams. “Once my parents invested in me to play, I just wanted to have success. In high school, the goal was to get a scholarship, in college to win a championship and when the draft opportunity was proposed its like now fight for the dream,” O’Quinn stated. “I also was helped by a great growth spurt in college. I went from 5’11’’ by my freshman year to 6’7’’ my junior year.”
Has what it takes
Anthony Evans, head coach of Norfolk State, says that O’Quinn has the right qualities to make it as a pro. Evans stated, “Kyle is a great person. He is always upbeat. He jokes around, but when it comes to basketball he is serious and brings a business-like attitude. I think it will make him a good pro.”
Notoriety for HBCUs
O’Quinn is the first Norfolk player to be drafted since Lee Johnson was taken by the Detroit Pistons in the third round in 1988 and the first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) player taken since Florida A&M’s Jerome James was picked by the Sacramento Kings in the second round in 1998. “This speaks volumes for our conference, our level of competition and the players that we have. He had a remarkable season and outstanding post season, which helped a team from our conference a No. 15 seed beat No. 2 seeded Missouri in the NCAA tournament,” commented Dr. Dennis Thomas, MEAC’s commissioner. Gravelle Craig, head basketball coach at Bethune-Cookman University, added,” His selection is great for our conference and gives us notoriety. It shows kids that they can make it to the NBA from our schools. It also shows those overseas and in the NBA that we have talent too.”
O’Quinn is the 14th Norfolk University Spartan to be drafted and the first during the school’s Division I era. “Our program always takes kids who need to develop and Kyle took advantage. He worked extremely hard. Kyle being drafted is a credit to his work ethic. HBCUs have talented players but are overlooked because we don’t get the exposure that the major and mid-major programs get,” added Evans. O’Quinn was the only HBCU player taken in this year’s draft and the first since North Carolina Central’s David Young was selected by the Seattle Supersonics with the 41st overall pick in the second round back in 2004.
Great season at Norfolk
O’Quinn had a stellar senior season at Norfolk State, where he averaged 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. He led Norfolk to a 26-10 record, first-ever MEAC tournament title and an 84-82 upset win over No. 2 seeded Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Against Missouri, he had a dominating performance where he tallied 26 points and grabbed 14 boards. “That game did wonders for my career. It was a big game and it was on TV. It put me out there and really helped me out with my draft stock,” O’Quinn said.
‘Heart and soul’ of Norfolk team
O’Quinn was named the MEAC Player of the Year and MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first player to receive both honors in the same season.
He also was the Lou Henson Award winner for the best Mid-Major Player and was named All MEAC First team and MEAC tournament MVP. “He was the heart and soul of our team and he did everything. He was our low post threat on offense and he anchored our defense,” said Evans.
Great career at Norfolk
O’Quinn is Norfolk State’s all-time leader in blocks (283). He ranks sixth in rebounds (1,092) and 16th in scoring (1,607) at the school. During his junior season in 2010-11, he averaged 16.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, garnering MEAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. During his sophomore campaign in 2009-10, he averaged 11.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest.