O'Quinn Making Most of Opportunity
By John Denton
July 10, 2012

ORLANDOSmall-school product Kyle O’Quinn is in the NBA Summer League and getting a chance to chase his professional basketball dreams now largely because of a monstrous effort against NCAA Tournament powerhouse Missouri back in March.

On Tuesday, the Orlando Magic second-round pick went to work on proving himself yet against another highly acclaimed center from an elite college program.

O’Quinn, a product of tiny Norfolk State, not only didn’t back down from Detroit’s Andre Drummond, but he got the best of the No. 9 overall pick in the draft by a pretty wide margin on Tuesday.

The Magic lost to Pistons 79-74 in second-day action of the AirTran Airways Orlando Pro Summer League, but the most significant factor to come out of the game was the way that O’Quinn didn’t back down when challenged physically by the bigger Drummond. O’Quinn had 11 points and six rebounds while playing just 23 minutes, and Drummond managed just three points and three rebounds.

O’Quinn admitted that there was a little extra motivation for him coming into Tuesday’s game facing Drummond, a former college star at the UConn. O’Quinn, the 49th overall pick and the seventh center selected in the NBA Draft, made a name for himself in college when he had 26 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots in Norfolk State’s upset of Missouri in the NCAA Tournament.

``You have to come in with a chip on your shoulder. You know what kind of (swagger) that those (major college) guys walk into the gym with. Us Norfolk State guys, we don’t have that. Anything that we want we’ve got to take,’’ said O’Quinn, who let out a scream after finishing a three-point play over Drummond in the first half.

``That’s the mentality that I’ve had for the last four years and it’s rolled over into the summer league.’’

O’Quinn was a bright spot on a day in which the Magic (1-1) shot just 40.9 percent from the floor, missed 12 of 13 3-point shots and misfired on 14 free throws. To put that in perspective, Magic summer league coach Mark Price – the NBA’s all-time leader in free throw percentage – once went an entire season and missed just 15 free throws.

First-round draft pick Andrew Nicholson, the 19th overall selection in the NBA Draft, had 13 points. He made just five of 11 shots a day after scoring 24 points and hitting the winning basket in his NBA debut. And second-year forward Justin Harper made just two of 14 shots and missed all seven of his 3-point shots while scoring just seven points.

``We’re talking about us being by far the most inexperience team here in the summer league because we don’t have anybody who has much NBA experience. So we’ve just told them to go battle every night,’’ Price said. ``Obviously, we couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. Still, shooting as poorly as we did and missing 14 free throws we still only lost the game by five. I’m extremely proud of the effort.’’

Detroit’s Austin Daye had a near perfect shooting night and scored 24 points. Daye, a three-year pro with the Pistons, made eight of 10 shots, hit all three of his 3-pointers and connected on five free throws to help the Pistons surge ahead in the second half.

O’Quinn and Drummond wasted little time doing battle in the low post and the two got tangled up after the whistle several times in Tuesday’s first half. A referee stepped in to separate them on one occasion, but it didn’t stop O’Quinn from doing battle with the more established Drummond. His pick-and-pop jumper from 15 feet gave the Magic a one-point lead heading into halftime.

O’Quinn said after the game he was delighted that the referees let the two centers play physical basketball because he likely wouldn’t have gotten the benefit of the doubt from referees being that he’s a second-round selection out of a small school going against a lottery pick. But on the court, he said draft position actually matters very little at all.

``The physical play is something that I like. When you play physical like that nobody gets the upper edge and there’s no ticky-tack fouls,’’ O’Quinn said. ``Nine or 49 (with draft position), it doesn’t matter to me. We’re trying to play our hearts out for our teams. The logo on my chest is who I’m playing for.’’

O’Quinn prides himself on being a self-made player, working for everything he’s gotten out of basketball. He was a manager on his high school basketball team until he was a junior before a massive growth spurt pushed him onto the court. And at Norfolk State, he picked up the experience and confidence to lead him to believe that he can compete with anyone.

``I’m not a guy who came out after one year or two years or had everything given to him. I know it sounds redundant, but I worked for everything,’’ O’Quinn said. ``I played four years (in college) and I have about 120 college games under my belt. The experience of playing and playing you are going to gain confidence.’’

O’Quinn, who has no NBA guarantees as a second-round pick, was asked if he hoped to play well enough this week to earn a NBA contract at the end of the way and he joked he hoped to sign one later on Tuesday. He said that determination will ultimately be decided by how well he plays instead of where he was drafted or which school he hails from. The seriousness of the moment had him working out just minutes after his introductory news conference and has him getting to the arena two and three hours before games to get himself in the right frame of mind.

``You have to come in and play. At the end of the day, it’s not up to your agent, your mom or your dad. It’s on you,’’ he said. ``If you don’t handle that there will be no discussion tomorrow and no discussion next week (about a contract). I feel if I do what I need to do I’ll leave it up to anyone’s decision.’’

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