That promise was fulfilled Saturday, when O’Quinn received his diploma from Norfolk State.
“It took me a little time,” O’Quinn says. “But just holding that promise to actually complete it, it feels good.”
It wasn’t easy.
O’Quinn earned 24 credits -- two semesters worth -- while juggling life as a pro athlete.
He worked in and out of season, taking classes online, to earn his degree.
“I did a heavy load in the summer, obviously, and I’d take one or two classes during the year, but everything’s so mobile nowadays that it makes it a little easier,” said O’Quinn, who will receive a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on education.
O’Quinn, a fourth-year forward, was one of the faces of Norfolk State’s historic upset in the NCAA tournament in 2012.
The school became only the fifth No. 15 seed to win an NCAA tournament game when it upset second-seeded Missouri. O’Quinn converted a three-point play with under a minute left to help seal the win.
The 26-year-old has remained connected to the program over the last four years. He recently made a donation to the school that will help its current basketball players attend summer classes. O’Quinn hopes that this will help them graduate in a traditional four-year period and avoid the difficult path of balancing classwork with life in the NBA.
“The funding wasn’t there, so I kind of just stepped up and paid for it just so the kids could get an opportunity to get a jump-start or catch up or get ahead,” said O’Quinn, who was on track to graduate in four years but fell a bit behind while working out for NBA teams prior to the draft. “They won’t be in a situation I was where you’re trying to start your [NBA] career and finish school. It’s tough to leave and come back. Plus, it helps the program, just keeping the guys there, letting the guys get more acquainted with each other over the summer.”
O’Quinn's family was with him on Saturday. And his mother, Regina, was undoubtedly happy about the promise her son has fulfilled.
“They were worried at times because I was 18, but it was an opportunity that my parents never had,” O’Quinn said of Regina and his late father, Tommie. “It means a lot to my parents. It’s good to make them proud.”