OMAHA, Neb. — The high-tops are bright orange. Neon bright. Eye-blinking, head-shaking bright, like some Kool-Aid flavor run wild. Bright enough to make orange hunting garb look downright drab in comparison.
And three University of Virginia players — Darion Atkins, Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski — plan to wear their new orange Nike Zoom Hyperenforcers in Friday’s second-round NCAA tournament game against Florida.
The shoes arrived two days ago, sent by Nike after Virginia was picked as a No. 10 seed in the tournament.
Blue, orange and white were the color choices. Zeglinski and two teammates picked orange. The shade didn’t look too garish online.
“In the picture I didn’t know they were going to be this bright,” Zeglinski said Thursday. “I wanted to go bold, you know?”
— Down the hall from Virginia’s locker room at the CenturyLink Center is Norfolk State’s home and one of the country’s best senior big men. At 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, Kyle O’Quinn is a load in the post. Sure, O’Quinn averages 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. But his blocked shots are eye-opening: 2.8 per game this season, good for 14th-best in the country, and 204 over the last two seasons.
O’Quinn credited assistant coach Wilson Washington, in his first season with the team, for improving his technique. Game-changing blocks are what Washington teaches, not trying to smack the ball into the stands as O’Quinn fell into the habit of doing.
“Before, he was trying to block the shot to the rafters,” fifth-year Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans said. “Coach Washington sat him down and said flick your wrist, keep it in play so we can start a fast break off it.”
— A No. 15 seed in its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament, Norfolk State isn’t exactly a magnet for media attention. Not when high-profile No. 2 seeds Missouri, which Norfolk State faces Friday, and Kansas are at the CenturyLink Center. O’Quinn admitted to “jitterbugs.” But Norfolk State has won nine of 10 games and, earlier in the season, lost to Marquette’s talented squad by just two points.
And Evans explained how he was able to build a 25-win program in Norfolk. Part of the secret lies in the eight players from New York, including O’Quinn. Evans was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and played and coached in the state.
“When you’re growing up in New York, all you see are tall buildings,” Evans said. “You see trees, grass, Virginia Beach. All those things you can sell to a young man. There’s a lot around.”