This Kid Can Play
There aren’t many players throughout the Big Sky conference that have had the unique maturation process of North Dakota’s lead guard Quinton Hooker. He was thrown right into the fire as a true freshman which is a testament to how the coaching staff viewed his abilities. He played in all 34 games that season and that comes with many ups and downs.
However, he followed his freshman season up with a sophomore year that showed growth. He led the team in scoring and started to see things coming together. Quinton’s early journey has prepared him well for where he is now as a junior that the Fighting Hawks rely on heavily in many areas.
To many, North Dakota can be viewed as a small and not so popular location. But plenty of people love it, and Quinton has found the roughly 6 hour separation from his Brooklyn Park, Minnesota home to be quite comforting.
“It’s smaller but it has a suburban type feel to it, there is really good people here and they love to support their home teams,” he said. “The similarities to my hometown are that North Dakota has a homely feel to it and everything like a close knit family atmosphere.” “That includes the restaurants and loyal fans.”
The life of a student athlete doesn’t differ much even if you are in a smaller city. The demands stay the same because it takes total dedication to succeed in both areas. Many athletes can’t find a way to thrive in in both but Quinton has found a way as he usually does.
Trying to balance school with basketball is a constant focus, Hooker said. He made it clear that his list of priorities revolve around those things.
“The scheduling from two different time zones can be challenging, but also knowing how to sacrifice and prioritizing your time is important if you want to stay on top of everything.”
One of the biggest decisions of a young athlete’s life is deciding where to spend the next four years shaping your future while playing sports. Players always want to go places that can feel like home and give them comfort in knowing they have a solid support group in place. Quinton had that feel instantly as he could lean on Coach Gameli. Gameli was his AAU coach and that familiarity made things easier for him to make his decision.
“Deciding on North Dakota was an easy choice because of the familiarity with the system, comfortability with the coaches, and a family type atmosphere the welcomed me in.”
Quinton’s ability to improve steadily each year has been impressive. As the responsibilities have expanded, his game has expanded as well. The saying goes “With great power comes great responsibility” and he has clearly answered the bell in that regard. After appearing in every game as a freshman, and then leading the team in scoring as a sophomore, Quinton has established himself as a big time player in the Big Sky conference. Scoring is his best attribute but that isn’t all he brings to the table. He takes pride in his improvement as a complete player.
“My overall mentality as a decision maker has been my biggest improvement. But I also got more consistent in giving maximum effort,” he said. “The senior guards showed me the way and how to conduct myself on a daily basis. My dad routinely emphasized how important it was to improve my game. I also had to become more consistent with my shooting.”
Quinton’s scoring prowess is outstanding, especially when you consider the fact that he has topped 1,000 points in his career. His first 30 point game came as a junior which shows just how productive he has been for the Fighting Hawks in that regard. He has had to step up in that department for the betterment of the team but he really enjoys getting his teammates involved.
“I’ve always been a pass first guard but on this team I have needed to be more of a scorer, be a leader, and set the standard daily.”
North Dakota is sitting at 5th in the Big Sky Conference, and with the conference tourney underway Quinton believes they can really make some noise. As the leader, he knows what I will take to accomplish their goals.
“We have to stay focused, and continue to be prepared but we also have to stay confident.” The Fighting Hawks are a young team so Quinton understands it is partly his duty to keep the team upbeat and ready.
“We really need our young players to stay locked in.”
These are the ingredients to North Dakota making some noise down the home stretch of the season. Quinton believes everything they want to accomplish is there for the taking.
A hectic schedule for student athletes comes with the territory but we all need a little relaxation. Quinton is a laid back guy that doesn’t do much in his rare off time. He really enjoys cherishing the moments of being around his loved ones.
“In my off time I really try to use as little energy as possible,” he says. “I hang out friends and family, but sometimes I might just watch some Netflix.” “Hanging with the fellas it what my off time mostly consist of around here unless I get a chance to go home.”
Going home is always a welcoming time for most players because then you get some home cooking which is always good. Those are the meals money can’t buy. “I love my mom’s chicken and gravy with rice.”
Style is also an important aspect to many that play basketball because when you look good, feel good, you play well. Quinton takes pride in his collection and actually has two favorites.
“My Kyrie 1’s that are custom made and my green/black Kyrie 2’s that go well with our uniforms.”
The star of the Fighting Hawks has aspirations of continuing his playing career but he still has business to handle at North Dakota. He looks up to one guy in particular that actually played in his conference.
“My favorite NBA team is the Portland Trailblazers, mainly because of Damian Lillard and what he has been able to do coming out of the Big Sky Conference.”
Even if basketball isn’t his calling once his career is over, it is very clear his leadership and intelligence will translate in other areas. Quinton takes his academics serious as he understands his family puts extreme value on education.
“I switched my major to Social Science because I like working with people and that is close to being an education major because ultimately I’d like to be a teacher.”
Based on the role Quinton plays for his North Dakota team, it is completely understandable to see his interest away from basketball. He has been groomed well for the position he is currently in trying to lead his team. Now that will translate to life after basketball because much like helping the younger guys on his team he finds comfort in helping others.
In the meantime, Quinton is still focused on being a force in the Big Sky Conference. His leadership and poise are required daily but he doesn’t take that lightly. The responsibility has been passed down to him and he thrives on it. University of North Dakota’s basketball team is in good hands with the services of Quinton Hooker.