By Zach Braziller
Kyle O’Quinn’s fairy-tale story of basketball rags to riches doesn’t have an end in sight.
The former Campus Magnet star who had just one scholarship offer out of high school signed a partially guaranteed, three-year, $2.5 million contract with the Orlando Magic Aug. 8, his agent Alberto Ebanks told the New York Post.
“Signing is the point everybody wants to get to,” the 6-foot-10 O’Quinn said. “It’s another step in the journey I’ve been traveling.”
And what a journey it has been. O’Quinn only began playing basketball in high school because of his size. He didn’t begin to see significant minutes until his senior year, when he started to take the sport seriously. His first scholarship offer, from Norfolk State, didn’t come until late in the spring.
He landed at Norfolk State, but struggled until midway through his junior year. With the Spartans in the midst of an 11-game losing streak, he realized he had to get more serious on the court, cut out the joking and lapses of focus.
A second-round pick in June’s NBA Draft, O’Quinn earned his spot with a solid showing at the NBA Summer League in Orlando, where he averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game. He was named to the second team of the league and even outplayed Detroit Pistons rookie Andre Drummond, the ninth overall pick, and was signed to be Dwight Howard’s backup, granted the all-star center remains with the team.
O’Quinn will get one year guaranteed, worth $788,000. The second and third years are team options.
“That’s what they’re looking for initially,” O’Quinn said. “Anything else is up to me.”
O’Quinn played his way into prominence this winter, first as the MEAC Player of the Year by averaging 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He led Norfolk State to 26 wins, the school’s most since 1995, and a shocking upset of Missouri, just the fifth time a 15th seed has taken down a No. 2, in the NCAA Tournament. He was also named MEAC Tournament MVP and the Lou Henson Award winner at the nation’s top “mid-major” player.
“This is a guy who really has gone pro like a pro,” said Ebanks, of EBSA Sports. “There were never any complaints on his part. Whatever we thought he needed to do, he did. Someone forgot to tell him he played in the MEAC, someone forgot to tell him he played for a small conference. He played big and continued to play big.”
He worked out for 18 NBA teams and was named the MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational, a showcase for the top college seniors.
“It’s hard to believe when you look at the whole road, but one thing led to another and now we’re here,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting. It’s another day you sit back and look at all you’ve been through. It’s another step in your career.”