Kyle O’Quinn was one of basketball’s best-kept secrets, up until March 16, 2012. That was the day his Norfolk State Spartans defeated Missouri in a huge 15 over 2 tourney upset. Prior to that day, even people with orange roundies for brains — like those of us who write for CBT — may have been aware that O’Quinn was a dynamic scorer and shot-blocker, but likely harbored serious doubts that his skills would translate outside of the lowly MEAC.
We had to re-evaluate O’Quinn after that huge upset, and so did NBA scouts. As it stands today, the former Spartan has been flown to work out for the glitzy Los Angeles Lakers, and is scheduled to continue his victory tour through Brooklyn, San Antonio, San Francisco and Oklahoma City. The League wants him. It seems like a crazy dream, even to O’Quinn, though he’s starting to wake up to the possibilities. “It’s all becoming very real now,” he told the Hampton Roads Pilot Online.
Unlike some blue-chippers who may feel that the NBA is a birthright, O’Quinn knows the dream is still far away. He’s taking steps to make it all happen.
O’Quinn has been living in Las Vegas and working out at Impact Basketball, one of the world’s top training facilities. He’s acquired an agent, Al Ebanks. And he’s embraced the idea that many eyes are on him.
“Every time I work out at Impact, someone is watching,” O’Quinn said. “Or at least, that’s the way I look at it. People know that some really good basketball players are here at Impact and they float in and out all the time just to watch people work out. Someone could be watching me from the rafters and I don’t even know they are there, so I make sure I’m working out hard every time.”
O’Quinn’s productive paranoia is charming. If the phrase “dance like nobody’s watching” has become a shopworn cliche, maybe it’s time to replace it with O’Quinn’s motto: “work like everybody’s watching.”
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.