In the week leading up to the NCAA tournament, Norfolk State senior center Kyle O'Quinn's high school coach, Charles Granby of Campus Magnet, stressed to him what Friday's game against Missouri could mean to his stock.
"I told him this is worth so much to an individual, this one game on national television," Granby said. "If you go there and have a good game on national television, your name will become a household name in all of the world."
The coach's prediction certainly came true. The former Campus Magnet standout is the talk of the tournament after guiding 15th-seeded Norfolk State to an 86-84 win over second-seeded Missouri on Friday. Before Lehigh's 75-70 upset of Duke just a couple hours afterward, Norfolk State's win marked just the fifth time that a 15-seed had beaten a No. 2 in tournament history, and it happened in large part due to O'Quinn's 26-point, 14-rebound effort.
"Now, everybody is talking Kyle O'Quinn," Granby said. "Everybody has been calling me up and saying 'Congratulations, coach,' and I'm like, it has nothing to do with me. Kyle decided to do something with basketball and this is very gratifying to see."
In the week leading up to the game and in the few hours since the upset concluded, Granby said the phone in his Queens home, where he watched the game, had not stopped ringing. The stalwart of the Campus Magnet program has had his relatives, former players and friends calling, wanting to congratulate him about his pupil's success.
Granby had a feeling that O'Quinn, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year, would showcase his talents against Missouri. He had perhaps the biggest play in the game, a three-point play off a putback that gave his team an 84-81 lead it never relinquished.
"I just felt good to see one of our own do something, he's one of the eight kids from the team from New York City," Granby said. "I really hoped he enjoyed this moment."
O'Quinn was a late bloomer on the recruiting trails. He barely made any noise his junior year of high school, averaging about a basket a game, and had practices where Granby would throw him out.
The center said he eventually started absorbing as much information as he could to try and improve, and his coach described it as the light going on in O'Quinn's head. O'Quinn blossomed as a senior, averaging 20 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game.
Norfolk State was the first and only school to offer him a scholarship and O'Quinn accepted right away, becoming the leader of a team filled with New Yorkers, as well as a head coach and an assistant from the Big Apple.
"He's playing hard," Granby said. "He's very friendly, everybody likes him, and he has a good presence. That's a compliment to his coaching staff. It's nice to see him do so well."
Granby believes that O'Quinn has a future in the NBA, and this game might elevate his stock even more. He talks highly of how O'Quinn has a high basketball IQ, can hit the 3-pointer and play great defense as a big man.
Before O'Quinn can even think about the NBA, however, Norfolk State has a game Sunday against Florida. Don't expect his former coach to be surprised if O'Quinn leads another massive upset and gets his team to the Sweet 16.
"That's the story of the NCAA, the little schools that come out like that, you have to root for them," Granby said. "That's the American way, we root for the underdogs."