Former Norfolk State and MEAC standout Kyle O’Quinn is returning to his home state to play for the New York Knicks. Phil Jackson completed use of his $28 million cap space by inking the role-playing, lunchpail big man from the Orlando Magic. The Knicks president hopes O’Quinn is a diamond in the rough — a local product who should bring some needed toughness. O’Quinn, from Flushing, New York, was obtained in a sign-and-trade with the Magic on Saturday. He agreed to a four-year, $16 million deal. The specifics of the deal include the Magic receiving cash and the right to swap second round picks in 2019.
O’Quinn won both the MEAC player and defensive player of the year awards in his final season at Norfolk State while leading the Spartans to their first-ever MEAC basketball title. He then was the spearhead and grabbed the attention of the national media as NSU, a 15th seed, upset #2 seed Missouri in a 2012 first round NCAA Tournament game.
That started the affable O’Quinn on a whirlwind postseason that saw him win accolades during pre-draft NBA workouts that led to his second round selection by the Magic in the 2012 NBA Draft. He was the 49th overall selection. Amongst the many advantages of returning home, O’Quinn is most conscious of the proximity to his family.
“My parents are super excited,” he told the New York Post. “They’re going to be able to go to all of my home games and see me more. My dad is the excited the most, because he likes to be around me a lot and he says this is making up for the years that I was away in college and in Orlando. He thought I’d never come back to New York, but it worked out.
“My mom, she’s in security mode right now. She’s happy for me, but she’s laying out ground rules. She wants it to be clear to people that this isn’t some big family reunion and that I’m not always going to be accessible. She’s telling me, ‘You aren’t coming home for a family reunion. You have a job to do and you need to work.’ I told her, ‘I know, I know!'”
The Knicks’ frontcourt is so depleted, O’Quinn could compete for the starting power forward job, though he played just 51 games for the Magic, starting 17. He averaged 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds and had trouble sticking in the rotation the entire season. The Knicks entered the day with $3.5 million left of 2015 salary-cap space for the upcoming season. O’Quinn will count for that amount in the first year of his deal.
“I love that he can play the 4 and 5 — tough,” former Nets assistant general manager Bobby Marks said. “[He’s] hard-nosed and can make a jumper to 17 feet. He plays with an edge and has gotten better each year. He was a little nicked up this year, but nothing major.” Former Magic teammate Tobias Harris told the Post, “He’s a very underrated player, solid. He’s a tough player who doesn’t back down, good individual off the court. He is a very good pickup for the Knicks. “I’ll miss him as a teammate.”