Kyle O'Quinn turned into the face of the NCAA Tournament, both for his singing and scoring.
The center led Norfolk State to just the fifth 15-2 upset against Missouri, and busted brackets everywhere. Without that win, there is a chance we might never have heard of O'Quinn (something the Mid-Major Madness will make sure never happens to another player like him). He might have been regarded as just another small school center that dominated lesser competition.
Instead, he is now being talked about as a potential first round, guaranteed contract draft pick. Continuing our look at the mid-major draft prospects, we go a little deeper.
School: Norfolk State (Norfolk, Va. | MEAC Conference)
Hometown: Jamaica, N.Y.
Weight: 240 lbs
Accolades: Won Lou Henson award as top mid-major player. MEAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the year as senior (1st player to do so). Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a junior, 2x 1st Team All-Conference; 1x 2nd Team All-Conference.
Team Record: 62-67
My first exposure to Kyle O'Quinn came long before the Spartans upset Missouri. Early in the year, Norfolk State took out Drexel, in a game that you would normally go all in on the Dragons.
But Norfolk State took advantage of a less-than-full-strength opponent (yes, I am making excuses) and O'Quinn turned in a double double. He only got better from there, culminating in the huge upset to cap the season.
The magic ran out against Florida in the second round, but O'Quinn also was in foul trouble for most of the game and as a result played just 24 minutes. Without him, the Spartans were nothing on the floor compared to the Gators.
And that was the story for most of the season. There was the good Norfolk State team that showed up to play against Drexel and Missouri. And there was the bad Norfolk State team (or rather good for the MEAC Norfolk State team) that lost to Division II Elizabeth City, and Delaware State.
O'Quinn is going to be loved for his size and then criticized for how raw he still is. He barely played basketball in high school; he had one scholarship offer; and he didn't exactly attend an NBA factory. But even at 22, he is still going to improve because he will finally be in an environment where he can learn the game.
Not that learning at the pro level will be easy, but O'Quinn has shown that he is willing and able to toil away at it for a shot.
Final Season Averages:
15.9 pts... 1.4 asts...10.3 rebs...2.7 blocks...2.6 turnovers...31.3 mins...57.3% FG...18.8% 3PT...69.6% FT
Obviously there is a worry that O'Quinn put up these numbers against the MEAC, which somehow escaped having its champion in one of the First Four PIGs. We already know there was no player in the conference that was as good defensively as he was. And there was no player period who succeeded like him.
But if this were the line for a center in the SEC, or the Big Ten, what would be the reaction. I think most would say that it was the line of a solid player, but nothing outstanding.
O'Quinn's numbers in conference were even better, which again brings up the competition factor. At the same time, he won the MVP award at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, which has seemed to quiet the critics on the schedule strength for now.
Going to the HOOPWAR scale, O'Quinn played on a team where he had to do almost everything in order for the Spartans to succeed. He finished with a HOOPWAR/30 of 9.11. The rest of his team featured just 2 players who could even break above 0.0, so you know he was overcoming a lot to get to that number.
On the defensive side of the ball, O'Quinn was saving 22.4 points for every 100 minutes he played (according to HOOPWAR). By comparison, even if the skill sets are slightly different, Anthony Davis saved 63.4 points, and Tyler Zeller was at 16.4 points.
His senior year saw him get better at shot selection, and better at involving the rest of his team when he needed to, becoming a real floor leader, even from a low post position.
It was O'Quinn that drove Norfolk State to the conference title, and the NCAA Tournament. It was O'Quinn that helped them to the big 1st round upset. That leadership is something that won't show up in stats, or value.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
O'Quinn can defend and rebound, and has been praised for his skill at both. Usually defense is the last thing that develops for players, so he is ahead of the game in that respect.. His post game is strong and he gets a lot of credit for what he was able to do in an offense that was lacking for a supporting cast..
While O'Quinn can play, there is still a question of his consistency, even at the things that he excels in (defense and post play). He hasn't had to have sustained focus at the college level, because his size was able to dominate night after night in the MEAC.
He can turn it on, as he showed against Missouri, and he will probably be able to have flashes of that talent in the NBA, but he might never turn into a guy that plays 36 minutes as a starter. And maybe that is OK. A lot of players have made careers coming off the bench and performing in limited roles, especially big men.
O'Quinn is also raw, having played high school basketball for only two years, and then in the MEAC for four. No one has turned him into the player that his talent shows he can be.
O'Quinn could be a wild card on draft day. The Sporting News has him going as high as the No. 26 pick in the first round (Indiana), and Draft Express has him at the No. 11 pick in the second round (Portland). In the middle, there is Sam Amick at Sports Illustrated, that has him at No. 30 to the Warriors.
I can't see him going before the slot the Sporting News has him in. He just isn't as ready, or showing as much potential as the top four centers in the draft.
And so there is no consensus on the big man. But he is a big man. That is something that a lot of teams will take a chance on because size doesn't grow on trees. Maybe the Cavs grab him early in the second round. Maybe he slips down to the Sixers or the Pistons later in the second. No one has any idea.
But it definitely looks like O'Quinn will be heading somewhere on draft day, and have a chance to be the first player from the MEAC to play in the NBA since 1986.
NBA Combine: June 8-9