Four years ago, the Norfolk State Spartans promoted Anthony Evans to the head coaching position and has since then achieved success.
The New York bred coach not only led Norfolk State to it's most successful four-years since he was hired but also got the team to its first ever NCAA Tournament.
His success has to do a lot with the players he and his staff have recruited since he took over the coaching job back in 2007. Right by his side helping coach Evans is head assistant men's basketball coach Robert Jones, who is also responsible for recruiting some of Norfolk State's most talented players.
Currently eight players, from numerous places in New York, are on the roster led by senior Kyle O'Quinn, who leads the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. O'Quinn, a 6-10 center from Jamaica Queens, New York, averages 15.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks, while shooting a career-high 58 percent from the field. "This season he's actually doing less than he did last season statistically," coach Jones said. "But with his presence, it's opened it up for a lot of other guys to step up to the plate, which they have been doing. Just his presence on the floor changes the whole game." He also continued by saying, "He's the first guy ever to be Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the conference." O'Quinn was apart of the first recruiting class that was put together by the coaching staff of Norfolk State. He was never one of the most talented player on recruiting boards but evolved into a legit NCAA big man and a possible NBA pro. "It's been fun watching his evolution into the player that he is right now," coach Jones said. "Being that he was my first recruit it's a special, sentimental type deal."
These New York bred players, along with the many others, have orchestrated one of the best seasons in the history of Norfolk State. This is the first and only time the Spartans have made the NCAA tournament since joining Division I ranks back in 1997. It would be crazy not to assume that this coaching staff at Norfolk State hasn't helped the Spartans become a MEAC powerhouse and possibly a national mid-major power because of that pipeline. "It's helped tremendously, especially when some of our best players down here are from New York," coach Jones said. "Like Kyle O'Quinn, who's Mr. Everything to us, Marcos Tamares, who starts for us, Jamel Fuentes, who's the first point guard off the bench, Quasim Pugh, who went to Banneker and he also contributes for us. So a lot of our guys in our rotation are from New York so it helps tremendously."
The Spartans had a record of 25-9, which was the most wins in school history, as well as a 13-3 conference record, and won their conference title for the first time in school history.
After winning their first ever conference title, the Spartans received an No. 15 seed in the NCAA for the right to play the No. 2 Missouri Tigers. Many of the Ny'ers are going to be on show to a national audience. One of which, the staff hopes has a good game on that national stage. "We're hoping that [O'Quinn] has a pretty good NCAA tournament game so the hole world can see what we see," coach Jones said. "[O'Quinn] had about 14 NBA teams come check him out this year so he's not like a total secret to everybody but we know he's one of the better players in the country and the most underrated player in the country. He just had to get his chance."
Tamares, a Bronx, New York native, is a starter, the team's fourth leading scorer and has given the Spartans a consistent lift. Fuentes, a sophomore guard from Brooklyn, New York, comes off the bench and give the Spartans a lift in the backcourt. He averages three assist in just 18 minutes of play,while turning it over just 1.8 times a game. Many other New York natives see the court in the Spartans rotation and has continued to help Norfolk State be successful.
#15 Norfolk State would get their first NCAA win with a 86-84 upset win over #2 Mizzou on Friday.