Standing in front of his locker Friday night in The Garden, just minutes after posting season highs in points (20) and rebounds (13), Kyle O’Quinn is peppered with questions that hold little value to the Knicks backup center.
He’s asked his thoughts on coach Jeff Hornacek possibly tweaking his starting lineup. He’s asked about how well he stepped in for the injured Joakim Noah.
In one fashion or another, O’Quinn’s answers are the same – This is all part of being a team. O’Quinn knows the importance of team because he holds nothing dearer than Team O’Quinn.
His mother, Regina, his sister, Rasheena Moss, the friends in the South Jamaica, Queens neighborhood that kept pushing O’Quinn to get to the NBA, the guys he played with on the Roy Wilkins courts, are his team, his franchise.
The captain of that team is his deceased father, Tommie O’Quinn, who died in a one-car automobile crash in September of 2015 at the too young age of 72.
“He lit up every room he walked into,’’ said O’Quinn, who wears a pendant with his father’s picture around his neck. “He lived life to its fullest – every day.’’
O’Quinn’s heartwarming – and, at times, heartbreaking – story airs Tuesday night at 11 PM on MSG Network’s series, Beginnings.
You will laugh. You may cry. You certainly will be reminded of the precious gift known as family.
“We always believed in a foundation of love, understanding, rules and regulations,’’ O’Quinn’s mother Regina told MSGNetworks.com. “I’ve heard Kyle say nothing makes him happier than knowing he’s made his parents proud. Nothing makes a parent happier than being proud of their children.’’
It’s not just family that O’Quinn’s foundation is built on. It’s the lifelong friends he made in the South Jamaica, Queens neighborhood in which O’Quinn was raised.
It’s the kids that play on the same Roy Wilkins court where O’Quinn learned the game. O’Quinn is a frequent visitor to the park, to his family home, and recently, to the small store in Corona where his father built a museum of his son’s memorabilia.
O’Quinn, 26, is the living embodiment of the African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’
“It’s really something you’ve got to be thankful for,’’ said O’Quinn. “Just to have a close knit family like that, a community that always supported me, it’s really something you’ve got to be thankful for. I think about that every day.’’
The Knicks honored Tommie O’Quinn prior to last season’s home opener. Born on Oct. 29, 1942, Tommie’s birthday often coincided with the opening of the NBA season.
To this day, O’Quinn can’t speak about the loss of his father, without being overcome with emotion. Tommie was something of a larger than life figure. He moved to New York from the South in 1963, got a job with the MTA and invested in real estate.
He loved life, often tinkering with his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which he rode on iconic U.S. Route 66. He never missed one of his son’s college games at Norfolk State and he never missed a Knicks home game, including morning shootarounds.
Regina, who has a large personality of her own, was the perfect counterbalance to Tommie’s eccentricity.
“My mom, I get my seriousness and attitude from,’’ said O’Quinn. “I learned how to spend my money, or how not to spend my money. She’s kind of on the conservative side.’’
O’Quinn’s older sister Rasheena, four years his senior, was the straight A student, who kept her younger brother in check. That included teaching her brother the importance of faith.
“She taught me how to carry yourself the right way,’’ said O’Quinn.
When Tommie died, Kyle wasn’t sure how to carry on. His mother used a favorite phrase she used before every one of Kyle’s practices and games.
“Go out there and do the damn thing.”
O’Quinn has been doing a terrific job for the Knicks this season. Noah has been hampered by illness and a sprained ankle. O’Quinn has averaged 5.2 points on 54.9-percent shooting with 4.6 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and one assist in 13.8 minutes.
After Karl-Anthony Towns scored a career-high 47 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds in the Knicks 106-104 win in Minnesota, O’Quinn led the defensive effort in Friday night’s 118-114 triumph in The Garden, limiting Towns to 20 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
“He was a dog today,” said swingman Justin Holiday. “We needed that.”
O’Quinn followed that dogged performance with a nine-rebound, four-point, four-blocked shot effort in Sunday night’s win over the Sacramento Kings. The Knicks are 8-3 in their last 11 games and 8-1 in their last nine in The World’s Most Famous Arena.
O’Quinn has needed the support of his family and friends to get to the NBA and to deal with the loss of his father. He’s always had it. He always will.
THE O’QUINN FILE
Favorite Ride – A black Ford F-150 pickup truck named Black Ops.
Favorite Book: Captain Underpants.
Favorite Cartoon Character: Barney
Favorite TV shows: Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune.
Favorite Halloween Costume: Captain Underpants, two years ago. (When you’re 6-10, 255-pounds, you wear whatever you want on Halloween)!
CRUSHING ON CLYDE
As much as Regina loves her son, Kyle, she also has a soft spot in her heart for former Knicks great turned MSG Networks analyst Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier.
With the exception of Sunday afternoon matinees, O’Quinn said his mother prefers to watch Knicks games at home, rather than come to The Garden
“She’s got this love for Clyde,’’ said O’Quinn. “She loves to hear him on the tube. I’m constantly fighting Clyde for her to get her to games. She just loves his vocabulary. You know, the game has so much excitement she’s waiting for that one razzle dazzle word that she can repeat to me.”