At 6’10, Kyle O’Quinn is a giant everywhere he goes. No where is that more true than Norfolk State University.
The current New York Knicks star returned to Echols Arena on Monday to horse around, hoop it up and chop it up with kids at the program’s summer camp.
“They gave me my opportunity,” O’Quinn told HBCU Gameday. “Norfolk State means a lot to me. It mean’s almost everything.”
The Queens, NY native helped Norfolk State win its first-ever MEAC basketball title in 2012 and then followed it up with one of the great NCAA Tournament upsets of all-time. Fifteenth-seeded NSU upset no. 2 seed Missouri as O’Quinn scored 26 points and pulled down 14 rebounds.
“The truth of the matter is, I would have been alright,” O’Quinn said. “But the team would have faded and we didn’t want that.
“We won the (MEAC) championship and then we went to that game thinking that we could possibly do something great. It wasn’t just for us it was for the university and the guys that went before us.”
Current Norfolk State head coach Robert Jones was an assistant on that famed 2012 team. As the man who actually initiated O’Quinn’s recruitment at the Virginia school, he’s seen the complete arc of the Kyle O’Quinn story.
“He’s the perfect example of when they say “you can make it from anywhere,” Jones said. “You know alot of times people think that’s a cliche, but it’s really the truth, and he’s a perfect example of that.”
O’Quinn quietly had the best season of his five-year pro career in 2016-17, scoring 6.2 points per game and grabbing 5.2 rebounds while shooting 52.1 percent from the field, all of which were career highs.
Before the 80-plus campers broke for lunch, the resident NBA player in the gym gave them advice on basketball and life.
“If I didn’t make it to the NBA, I would be okay,” O’Quinn told the campers. “My life wouldn’t be over.”
He encouraged the campers to believe in themselves and treat the game of basketball with respect. He defined respecting the game as going to schools and getting good grades and appreciating those who helped get them into a camp with an NBA player.
“I want to say I respected the game and that’s why I got a lot of rewards from it,” O’Quinn said. “I’m only in my sixth year. Like I said, if I wasn’t in the league, my life would still be okay. Just with four years of college basketball because I feel like God has blessed me.”