Kyle O’Quinn Looks Back on Historic Upset
Kyle O’Quinn sits in the Orlando Magic locker room, taking in No. 13 La Salle’s upset victory over No. 4 Kansas State. The 22-year-old knows all too well what it’s like to pull off such a stunning win. One year ago, O’Quinn became a household name when he led No. 15 Norfolk State to a win over No. 2 Missouri. It remains the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history since the Spartans were 21.5-point underdogs.
“We messed up some brackets!” O’Quinn shouted after the win. “We even messed up my bracket!”
O’Quinn, who was selected by the Magic with the 49th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, is enjoying life as a professional basketball player. He has become a key contributor for Orlando. In fact, he would make the first start of his career on this night.
Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn raves about O’Quinn’s hustle plays and willingness to accept coaching. He describes O’Quinn as the ultimate glue guy since he’s always the first player off of Orlando’s bench to support his teammates during games.
While he has carved out a role on the Magic, he’s still primarily known for the 26-point, 14-rebound performance during the opening round of last year’s tournament. When people recognize him on the street, they ask him about the game. When NBA teams interviewed him during the pre-draft process, they wanted to talk about the upset. O’Quinn is fine with that, and he looks back fondly on his March Madness experience.
“They say it made history,” O’Quinn said with a smile. “History is always brought up, so a lot of people bring it up. I don’t mind answering questions. It was a wonderful day in history and it was a big day for me. Everybody’s known for something. I stand tall and I’m proud to say that the victory, I had something to do with it. If they remember me for the rest of my career for that, that’s fine with me.”
While the upset victory helped catapult O’Quinn into the spotlight and up NBA draft boards, it also put Norfolk State on the map since it was the school’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“Even though it was one game, that game meant so much for the university,” O’Quinn said. “The whole university enjoyed that victory. Coming from a small school where you’re getting no national exposure to getting a lot of national exposure, it was big. My university enjoyed it the most, and for them to enjoy that, it was a good way to pay them back for what they had done for me.”
Entering the game, O’Quinn just wanted to continue his college career. At the time, he wasn’t on the NBA’s radar so he didn’t know what the future held.
“As a senior, I knew that it might be my last college game so I wanted to have as much fun as I could,” O’Quinn said. “Because if that was the last game, I wanted to be able to go home and say, ‘Man, I played my heart out.’”
No. 14 Harvard over No. 3 New Mexico has been the biggest upset of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. No. 16 Southern almost took down No. 1 Gonzaga, which would’ve surpassed Norfolk State over Missouri as the biggest upset in NCAA history since Southern was a 22.5-point underdog and a 16-seed. O’Quinn says it’ll be extremely difficult for any team to top what Norfolk State did in 2012 (although No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast was taking it to No. 2 Georgetown at the time this article was published).
“It will be tough,” O’Quinn said with a laugh. “I’d praise anyone that would do it, but I’d tell them that it would be tough. There’s a lot of components that have to go your way during a game like that when [you’re the underdog].”
O’Quinn has been paying attention to this year’s tournament. He filled out a bracket and entered a competition against some of his close friends, but he doesn’t expect to win.
“I don’t think it’s doing too well,” O’Quinn says, “because I picked all the mid-majors to win.”