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Kyle O’Quinn, March Madness breakout star, spent nearly entire high school career on bench

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

After his team's NCAA Second Round victory against second-seeded Missouri, Norfolk State senior Kyle O'Quinn received the full compliment of positive nicknames. He was called dominant, he was called a hero. He even was called on to sign the anthem of March Madness, "One Shining Moment," on national TV.

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Norfolk State star Kyle O'Quinn fires a shot against Missouri — Getty Images

Norfolk State star Kyle O'Quinn fires a shot against Missouri — Getty Images

Striking among all those plaudits was the absence of another name O'Quinn had previously been called: Bench warmer. That's what O'Quinn was known throughout nearly the entirety of his four-year prep basketball career at Queens (N.Y.) Campus Magnet High.

As noted by the New York Daily News' Mike Lupica, O'Quinn spent all of his first three seasons at Campus Magnet sitting on the bench throughout basketball season. The 6-foot-10 post player came to the school to play football, but his height and agility given his massive frame made him an ideal low post threat on the basketball court.

For O'Quinn, the time to prove that didn't come until his senior season. Even then, it took almost the entire campaign for his talent to shine, with a playoff victory against New York (N.Y.) Boys & Girls School showcasing O'Quinn's ability to dominate on the offensive and defensive end in the same game, with his limited on court statistics the primary reason why he received just one scholarship offer ... to Norfolk State.

Four years later, Missouri had no answer for O'Quinn inside, with the senior scoring 26 points and adding 14 rebounds to silence Tigers fans and bracket gurus everywhere.

"I'm glad I made the city happy," O'Quinn told the Daily News. "And I'm glad I could make New York City kids believe something like this is possible, whether they've always had the spotlight on them or not."

It wasn't just New Yorkers who learned that lesson thanks to O'Quinn on Friday, even if it was only a small cadre of New Yorkers who saw his one shining moment coming.

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