The past few weeks have been both exhilarating and wearying for Kyle O’Quinn. He’s been in the national spotlight since his 26 point, 14 rebound effort led No. 15 seed Norfolk State team upset of No. 2 seed Missouri 86-84, in first round of NCAA tournament — just the fifth time a 15-seed has defeated a 2-seed. His reward has been workouts for 17 NBA teams and playing in three scouting combines in advance of next Thursday’s NBA Draft.
As taxing as that has been, he’s not about to add the mental anguish of trying to figure out where he will go. Mock drafts have him yo-yo-ing between the first and second round to half a dozen teams. But you won’t find the 6-foot-10 center hopping online to read any of that any more.
“If you read the internet, you’d have a headache just like I do, and you need to stop,” O’Quinn said of mock drafts. “There’s no point in it. If my Mom was a [general manager] or had a mock draft, I’d be the No. 1 pick. Do you think that’s real? The truth will be here Thursday. That’s the only one that matters.”
And when it does it will be the culmination of a terrific senior season, one where O’Quinn led team to its first MEAC title and NCAA tournament. Along the way he became the first player in MEAC history to win both the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award in the same season. He averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and was tied for fifth in the nation with 20 double-doubles (points-rebounds). He finished his NSU career as 15th in school history in scoring, sixth in rebounds and first in blocked shots.
But nothing was bigger than his game against Missouri where he almost single handedly beat the Tigers in the upset of the tournament.
“Kyle had been doing that throughout the year,” Anthony Evans, NSU’s head coach said. “We always knew he has some skills and was a really good kid. He just continued to improve each year. He’d been a double-double guy the last two seasons, and was putting up those numbers on just about everybody that we played. That stage was where he had a chance to show other people what he could really do.
“What I was most impressed with was how he handled the press and all the attention he received. It never changed him from who he was. A kid with a great personality and who is very humble. It has been something to watch since he’s been here. Then the last few years he’s really taken it upon himself to get to that next level more mentally and physically. First guy in the gym working on his game and the last one to leave. All that was great to see.”
Professional teams saw a lot of O’Quinn since then. He’s gotten a taste of the NBA life with his workouts and has more than held his own against top flight talent at the combines. One such competition was the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament where he was tourney MVP despite playing on the championship game’s losing team.
“I’m living every day, day-by-day,” O’Quinn said. “It’s been a great experience. A whirlwind. I’m going all over the country and visiting places that you’ve only seen on TV and you’re like, ‘Aw, man. Is this really happening?’ Sometimes you have to relish the moment, but you’ve got to work when you get there.”
“I know looking from the outside people are going, ‘Ah, man this is great!’ But when you’re there, they just put you in different situations and you are under a powerful microscope, so it’s a little nerve wracking. When you’re traveling around the country, and you’ve got to put in work in front of the GMs, and stuff like that, it’s not your best vacation. I’ve had better. All I can do is my best and wait and see Thursday.”