- Last Updated: 10:51 AM, June 26, 2012
- Posted: 1:15 AM, June 26, 2012
Kyle O’Quinn’s smile was gone. So was his booming laugh. The gregarious kid Campus Magnet coach Charles Granby likened to the TNT version of Charles Barkley was tired of losing and decided the best way to change began in practice, by getting serious.
“It was either then or never,” he recalled. “I wanted a different outcome.”
At the time, midway through O’Quinn’s junior season, Norfolk State was in the midst of an 11-game losing streak. In one practice, O’Quinn didn’t say a word, a rarity for the talkative forward. During the next three weeks, he didn’t joke at all during practice, which was uncommon. The team won six of its next seven games with O’Quinn leading the way. In his senior season, Norfolk State went on to win the MEAC and upset No. 2-seed Missouri in the NCAA Tournament in March.
“When he came with a business-like attitude, everything changed for him and for us,” Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans said.
It was the start of his metamorphosis — a turning point in his career, O’Quinn said. On Thursday, the 6-foot-10 O’Quinn is expected to be selected in the NBA Draft, taken anywhere from late in the first round to early in the second, his agent Albert Ebanks said.
He has worked out for 18 NBA teams and was named the MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational, a showcase for the top college seniors. This is the latest chapter in what has been a memorable senior year for the Queens nativeand Campus Magnet graduate.
O’Quinn was the MEAC Player of the Year and led Norfolk State to one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, an 86-84 upset of Missouri, just the fifth time a 15th seed has taken down a No. 2.
“I never thought I would put myself in a position where my name [could be] called [in the draft],” O’Quinn said. “But I keep saying, when you put work in you expect good things.”
“It would put a big stamp on all the work I’ve done.”
O’Quinn gained national acclaim after the upset of Missouri for scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, dominating one of the top teams in the country. He was just as celebrated afterwards for his engaging press conference, the quip that he busted his own bracket leading hundreds of stories nationwide.
“He gives you that dry Seinfeld humor,” Norfolk assistant coach Rob Jones said.
O’Quinn was always a joker, going back to his days at Campus Magnet. Basketball, however, was never a priority. He played sparingly on the junior varsity on Holy Cross and spent much of his junior year on the bench at Campus Magnet. Early in his senior year, after a number of talks with coaches and teammates, he emerged, leading the Bulldogs to the PSAL Class A quarterfinals.
“One day he got serious and everything just changed,” Granby, the longtime Campus Magnet coach, said.
Jones, a Queens native like O’Quinn, heard of an unknown big man and came to see O’Quinn. Granby gave him film and he called Evans instantly. Within a few weeks, O’Quinn signed with the Spartans.
His first two years at Norfolk State, though, O’Quinn was still leaving a lot to be desired, Jones said. He was talented, put up solid numbers, but often lost focus during practice. Then came the losing streak. O’Quinn stopped messing around on the court, and his game began to mirror his improved work habits.
“In order to see change,” he said, “you have to change.”Follow @NYPostsports