Knicks forward Kyle O’Quinn is a legend at Norfolk State.
After the university was the only school to offer the New York City native a scholarship, four years later in 2012 he made history on campus. He led the Spartans to its only NCAA tournament win, upsetting No. 2-seeded Missouri, 86-84, and three months later he was an NBA second-round draft pick.
Over the weekend, O’Quinn fulfilled another milestone at Norfolk State: receiving his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies after finishing a few credits shy as a senior. Making a promise to his mother, Regina, and older sister, Rasheena, he completed his coursework online through the university’s School of Extended Learning.
On Saturday, the 26-year-old was among more than 600 students who took part in the university’s graduation ceremony at Norfolk Scope Arena. He started the festivities on Friday, hosting a dinner at a local Dave & Buster’s for family and friends, and then having an autograph session for an hour at the restaurant. After Saturday’s graduation, O’Quinn revisited the basketball arena, his freshman dorm and the student union, and then had a cookout at the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. On Sunday, he organized a Mother’s Day brunch for Regina at a local hotel in town.
O’Quinn remains one of Norfolk State’s most popular former student-athletes. He’s helped raise money for the university’s “I Am NSU” donor campaign, to provide educational opportunities for future generations, and he’s served as a mentor for players on the school’s basketball team.
Collaborating with the NBPA, O’Quinn captured his return to campus. Below are his photos and reflections on his big graduation moment and greatest memories from his four years as a Spartan.
“When I committed to Norfolk State, I made a promise that I would complete my degree. I didn’t start college with the idea that I would not be graduating in four years. Completion was always the goal. My parents and big sister wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
“I made lifelong friends and built strong ties to the community in Norfolk. I love it here. I’m glad I was able to give everyone here something to be proud about when we made history here. It was important that I come back and set an example for everyone on the value of education. It felt good to be home this weekend.”
“I wasn’t a player that had many choices on where to attend school. There was only one school that chose me. The coaching staff believed in me and remained all four years. My teammates were all on the same page and allowed me to lead us. God blessed us and we had a lot of success.”
“Echols Hall was the first place the coaching staff brought me on my official visit. I remember walking in and the green and gold on the court just shined. There was history everywhere and I knew that I wanted to add something special to the history. It may not have been Duke or UNC’s arena, but to me it felt better.”
My most memorable games:
“My junior year, there were six guys and four starters from New York on the team. ‘Battle of the Bay’ is our big game against Hampton University. This was the last ‘Battle of the Bay’ that all six of the guys from NYC played together. We didn’t win that game, but I’ll never forget how many people were there and the feeling of being with guys from my hometown.”
“My senior year, I played in a game that was nationally televised on ESPN. I knew I had to put on a show and came out scoring 17 of the my team’s first 19 points on national TV. At one point, I had more points than the other team.”
“Charles H. Smith Hall was my first dorm at Norfolk State. It was the first time I lived away from home and was the start of my college journey. I loved staying here because there were people here from different places and you were able to see the differences in cultures. I met one of my best friends, Kris Brown, here and many other lifelong friends.”
“The student union was my favorite place to hang out on campus. People used to buy new outfits for Fridays in the union. If there was a big home game, we always had a big pep rally in the union. If we were on the road, we would come to the union on Tuesdays and the love would always be waiting on us.”