HBCU Grad and NBA Standout Continues to Give Back to His Alma-Mater, Norfolk State University
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Posted By: Will Moss on October 27, 2020 |
Kyle O’Quinn scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in what was inarguably the most important win in Norfolk State athletics history.
More than eight years later, the NBA player quietly continues to help the Spartans pull off upsets.
O’Quinn, a Philadelphia 76ers forward/center, has generated $150,000 earmarked for helping NSU’s basketball players attend summer school.
The 6-foot-9 O’Quinn, who earned a reported $4.5 million last season, has made $25,000 donations to his alma mater over three seasons, with each donation matched by the National Basketball Players Association.
The money goes toward summertime tuition and room and board for the Spartans, who were at a decided disadvantage without summer workouts before O’Quinn started writing checks.
“It’s been a huge lifesaver,” NSU coach Robert Jones said. “It’s not the easiest task for us to raise $50,000. Maybe for some other programs, maybe it’s nothing. But it’s tough for us to raise $50,000, especially in one shot like that. So for him to be able to contribute $50,000 every year helps out tremendously.”
O’Quinn, who wasn’t asked to donate this year, led the 15th-seeded Spartans to a landmark upset of second-seeded Missouri in the 2012 NCAA tournament. The victory, which came in the program’s lone March Madness appearance, put NSU on the national map, caused a bump in student applications and aided recruiting across all sports for years to come.
Since arriving at NSU as an otherwise-overlooked high schooler from New York, O’Quinn credits the school with giving him “an opportunity of a lifetime.” It’s why, eight seasons into his NBA career, he wants to give back.
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“I like to be a part it,” O’Quinn, 30, said this week. “I like to be engaged, and I’m a fan now. Now that I don’t go there, I’m a fan of the university, and I want to see the university do great things. So my giving is just out of my heart.”
O’Quinn’s high profile has served as a recruiting tool for not just Jones, but for any HBCU coach looking to lure a prospect.
One of just two HBCU alumni in the NBA, O’Quinn has made playing in the league look attainable to players being courted.
Jones said multiple coaches have admitted outright that they’ve thrown O’Quinn’s name around, telling recruits, “That kid played in our league.”
“It’s not just us,” Jones said. “It’s the whole HBCU world that uses Kyle for that. It’s an easy dream that you can sell because it’s actually happened, and it’s recent, because he’s still there. It’s not like it’s a Bob Dandridge situation.”
O’Quinn played for the Spartans from 2008-12, averaging 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game after Jones, an assistant coach at the time, was the only college staffer who recruited him.
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Along the way, O’Quinn said he learned many lessons that he’s tried to impart to his NBA peers.
“It taught you a lot,” he said. “It made you responsible. I’ll tell you that much. I know big conferences like to shrug their shoulders and do their things on private planes and things like that. But when you’re on them bus rides, you get to look in the mirror a little bit and understand who you are. It prepared me for anything.”
Jones said his players' summer workouts have leveled the playing field with many bigger programs they face. To wit, the Spartans upset top-seeded Alabama in the first round of the 2019 National Invitation Tournament — a victory Jones said likely wouldn’t have been possible without O’Quinn’s donations keeping the players on campus through the summer.
O’Quinn completed his degree in interdisciplinary studies in 2016 by squeezing in online classes while on the road with the New York Knicks.
In 2019, he was inducted into the MEAC Hall of Fame and had his NSU jersey retired in a ceremony at Echols Hall.
O’Quinn’s financial gifts to NSU have helped off the court as well. Once in danger of falling afoul of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, the Spartans have had a perfect score two of the past three years as players have used the summer sessions to get ahead.
“His contributions helped in many different phases: athletically, academically, recruiting-wise — everything,” Jones said. “It’s really helped to have that piece.”
Article by David Hall
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