How Jahvon Quinerly used a second chance at Alabama and getting 'screwed' out of an award to SEC Tournament MVP
NASHVILLE — Jahvon Quinerly accepted his SEC Tournament MVP award with reflection. His coach told him to claim it with defiance.
“I thought he got screwed out of the (SEC) Sixth Man of the Year award, to be honest with you,” Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats said. “… So I told him, ‘They may have screwed you on the Sixth Man of the Year, so let’s go win the tournament MVP.”
Quinerly, a sophomore point guard, was shut out of that regular-season award. It instead went to Arkansas guard J.D. Notae.
And four Alabama teammates took home SEC regular-season awards, including Herbert Jones, who swept Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
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But Quinerly won the hardware that matters most in the postseason by guiding Alabama’s 80-79 win over LSU in Sunday’s SEC title game. He took a long, curvy road to that SEC Tournament MVP award.
“I’ve been through a lot these last couple of years,” Quinerly said. “This is just a blessing. I’m just so happy that my family got to watch (at Bridgestone Arena). This is an amazing feeling.”
Quinerly brought his dad’s ‘Jersey toughness’ to Tide
Taking deep breaths in the aftermath of the championship game, Quinerly seemed to pause just long enough to recount the twists and turns that led him there.
He even locked eyes with his mother, who was sobbing in the stands among the limited number of fans permitted to attend the game due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Quinerly is a New Jersey native who committed to Arizona, instead played at Villanova, transferred to Alabama and had the best week of his college career in Nashville.
“This moment means everything to me,” Quinerly said at midcourt, moments after learning he was voted tournament MVP.
He then paused, turned away from the ESPN cameras on a live broadcast and pointed to his family and Alabama fans cheering for the journeyman point guard who helped carry their Crimson Tide to its first SEC Tournament title since 1991.
“And we’re not finished,” Quinerly added, referring to the NCAA Tournament, where Alabama will be one of the hottest teams in the bracket.
Oats raced right to Quinerly’s mom, as well. After a big hug, she thanked him for coaching two of her sons, Jahvon and freshman walk-on Jaden.
Oats thanked her in return for trusting him to revive her son’s college basketball career, which had gone off track since his days as a McDonald’s All-American and, briefly, a role player at Villanova.
Jahvon is one of four sons to Mark and Caren Quinerly, who Oats credited with supporting him and his coaching staff.
“They’re great people. They’re the parents that you never have to worry about,” Oats said. “They are never questioning the coaches — none of that. (His) dad is a Jersey cop. I love him. He’s a man’s man. And Jahvon has some toughness about him, Jersey toughness.”
How Quinerly sparked Alabama title’s run
Quinerly scored 14 points off the bench, buried three 3-pointers, pulled down five rebounds and added four assists in the championship game. He helped Alabama outscore LSU’s bench 28-0.
By then, his storyline as a postseason spark was already set. Quinerly led Alabama with 14 points in an 85-48 rout of Mississippi State in the quarterfinal.
Then he paced the comeback in a 73-68 win over Tennessee in the semifinal. He had 19 points, made Alabama’s final two field goals and buried two clutch free throws with 16 seconds remaining to advance to the title game.
With 47 points in the tournament, Quinerly continued his streak of 12 straight games scoring in double figures. All that happened as a substitute because he hasn't started a game since Dec. 22.
“This weekend has kind of been a turning point for me,” Quinerly said. “I had an up-and-down year. But I am lot more comfortable on the court and comfortable in my role on the team, and I know what I bring to the table.”
Reach Adam Sparks at email@example.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.