So Good to Be Back

KB hams it up on Media Day. AP photo courtesy of The Basketball Jones.

Rejoice! Basketball is back!

The NBA opened its regular season on Tuesday night, with lots of big national stories right away, but two relatively low-profile teams, the Golden State Warriors and the Orlando Magic, may be of most interest to local fans.

Orlando opened its season last night with a surprising 102-89 home victory over the Denver Nuggets. Although Glen “Big Baby” Davis and J.J. Redick led the way for the Magic, the big news here is that Kyle O’Quinn of Norfolk State made his NBA debut, becoming the fourth NSU Spartan to play in the league. Although O’Quinn played just three minutes, he filled up the box score with a field goal attempt, a personal foul, a defensive rebound, and a turnover.

Out west, the Golden State Warriors have started their season 1-1, opening with a road win over the Suns, and then returning home for a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. ODU alum Kent Bazemore has made the Warriors’ 15-man roster, but has been inactive for each of the first two games. The Warriors play on the road against the Clippers tonight; Bazemore may be activated in place of Kareem Rush, who was scheduled for an MRI today following a gruesome knee injury in the game against the Grizzlies. (Click here to see the injury, if you’re so inclined. If not, watch the clip anyway and stop it after the sick reverse dunk by Rudy Gay.)

Stay tuned to follow as we await Bazemore’s debut and O’Quinn’s first NBA points.

Basketball is back!

Locals Only

Jaquon Parker (44) of Suffolk in NCAA tournament action against Ohio State. Photo courtesy of BearcatsNation.com.

In his column on the “glue guys” to watch in college basketball next season, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports Network named Jaquon Parker of Cincinnati the “toughest player in college basketball.”

(Rothstein qualifies this remark by saying that Parker is the toughest player “pound for pound.” I didn’t realize that college basketball recognized weight classes. Rothstein could have just called Parker college basketball’s toughest guard.)

Anyhow, congratulations to Parker, who hails from Suffolk and graduated from King’s Fork High, for the well-deserved national attention. Parker was a key component for this year’s Bearcat squad, which overcame national attention of the negative variety before advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

Parker made 24 starts in the 30 games in which he appeared this season. As Rothstein points out, Parker played out of position for much of the season, but still averaged 9.4 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. Parker’s rebounding average was second on the team behind Yancy Gates, the Bearcats’ bruising 6’9″, 260-pound forward.

Parker will be a senior next season and will look to lead the Bearcats even deeper into March.

In other news, Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated has published version 2.0 of his NBA mock draft. Local fans will be disappointed to learn that Kyle O’Quinn of Norfolk State has dropped out of the first round.

Amick changed some things around following the draft combine, but Anthony Davis is holding steady at number one. In other news, the sun rose in the east this morning.

 

With the 30th Pick …

Kyle O'Quinn's stock rose after his MVP performance at the PIT. Photo by Stephen M. Katz, courtesy of pilotonline.com.

Now that the draft lottery is out of the way, fans of NBA teams that are no longer playing can turn their attention to the draft itself, which will be held on June 28.

In his initial 2012 mock draft, Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick projects Kyle O’Quinn of Norfolk State to be drafted 30th overall (the final pick of the first round) by the Golden State Warriors.

Draft projection is an inexact science: on NBA.com, Scott Howard-Cooper predicts that the Warriors will take Fab Melo of Syracuse with the 30th pick; he does not project O’Quinn as a first-round choice. DraftExpress doesn’t see O’Quinn as first-round material, either, but unlike Amick or Howard-Cooper, it has published second round projections and currently slots O’Quinn to be picked 41st overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. NBADraft.net has also made its second round predictions, but currently projects O’Quinn to go undrafted.

(All four mock drafts name Anthony Davis as the first pick, though.)

Regardless of the mock draft you put stock in, it seems that O’Quinn has a good chance to become the fourth Norfolk State Spartan to play in the NBA. According to Basketball-Reference.com, the three Spartans with NBA experience are Bobby Dandridge, Ray Epps, and David Pope. (NSU’s Al Beard played 12 games for the New Jersey Americans during their inaugural ABA season in 1967-1968. Like Beard, the “Americans” name lasted just one season; the franchise has been known as the Nets ever since.)

The 2011-2012 NSU Media Guide lists Spartans Pee Wee Kirkland and Ralph Tally (the Spartans’ career scoring leader with 2,575 points) as having pro experience with the Chicago Bulls, but neither is listed in the all-time Bulls roster contained in the most recent Bulls Media Guide.

Epps and Pope both had brief NBA careers: Epps played 13 games for Golden State in the 1978-1979 season; between 1984 and 1986, Pope played 33 career games over two NBA seasons (one each with the Kings and the Sonics).

Fun Fact One: Pope’s rookie year (1984-1985) was the Kings’ final year in Kansas City before the franchised move west to Sacramento. I had no idea that the Kings had been in Kansas City that recently; if you had asked me yesterday, I would have guessed that K.C. last had an NBA team in the ’60′s.

Reggie Theus played for the Kings in Kansas City (left) and Sacramento (right) before coaching the Kings in Sacramento. Photos courtesy of cnnsi.com.

Fun Fact Two: The Kings’ roster for the 1984-1985 season included the two most recent head coaches of the Atlanta Hawks: Larry Drew (current coach) and Mike Woodson (Hawks coach from 2004-2010; recently named permanent head coach of the New York Knicks). A third member of that Kings squad, Billy Knight, was GM of the Hawks from 2003-2008. As John Hollinger noted on ESPN.com, Knight’s tenure yielded mixed results for the Hawks but also produced an inescapable lowlight: drafting Marvin Williams second overall in 2005 when Chris Paul and Deron Williams were still available. Ouch.

The 1984-1985 Kings finished with a 31-51 record and also featured two future head coaches of the Kings franchise: Reggie Theus and Kenny Natt (an assistant under Theus who took over when Theus was fired). Natt is now the head coach of the men’s national team in India.

Fun Fact Two(A): Marvin Williams’ middle name is Gaye. What’s goin’ on?

Where were we? Norfolk State and its greatest NBA player, Bobby Dandrige. Dandridge played 13 NBA seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Washington Bullets; he appeared in four All-Star Games (1973, 1975, 1976, and 1979) and played on two championship teams: the 1970-1971 Bucks and the 1977-1978 Bullets. In his second pro season, Dandridge was the third-leading scorer for the Bucks’ title team, behind two players you may have heard of: Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson.

Norfolk State Spartan Bobby Dandridge (shooting) helped bring an NBA crown to D.C. in 1978.

In 1977-1978, Dandridge was the Bullets’ second-leading scorer behind Elvin Hayes. The Bullets’ championship team also featured Wes Unseld and Mitch Kupchak, the current Lakers GM. In a 1979 Sports Illustrated article, Curry Kirkpatrick called Dandridge the best small forward in professional basketball at the time and noted that Dandridge had outplayed Dr. J in the 1978 playoffs. In Kirkpatrick’s article, teammate Kevin Grevey damned Dandridge with faint praise: “The man can’t jump. He hardly ever runs. He doesn’t have to practice. He doesn’t even sweat. But he’s the best, period.”

Dandridge has set the bar high for Norfolk State alumni headed to the NBA. For one thing, winning NBA titles as a player in both Milwaukee and Washington is a feat not likely to be repeated any time soon. Scoring more than 15,000 career points in the league is nothing to sneeze at, either.

Tune on June 28 to learn O’Quinn’s NBA destination. Here’s wishing him a career as fine as Dandridge’s.