Entering third year, Magic's Kyle O'Quinn adds 3-point shot to repertoire

BY foxsports • October 21, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. -- With the start of his third year in the NBA only a week away, Orlando Magic forward Kyle O'Quinn knows the importance of building habits during the preseason which will carry over when games take on greater significance.

That description can apply to his newfound 3-point shooting ability. But O'Quinn would prefer to let that be the case when it comes to the Magic finding ways to pull out victories away from home.

In his two seasons with the Magic, their road record is 12-70. Their four wins a year ago, with just one coming after Dec. 16, represented a franchise low.

And while it might be tempting to dismiss preseason victories over a Miami Heat team adjusting to life without LeBron James and an Indiana Pacers team adjusting to life without Paul George as meaningless, O'Quinn is aware of how fine the line can often be between winning and losing on the road.

"As a team, I think we really took a step forward," he said. "There were some games that we probably should have lost on the road. Even though it's preseason, we're using these as real live tests."

The Magic will wrap up their preseason this week with home games Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets and Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Managing at least a split would enable them to finish with a record above the .500 mark and provide a lift heading into a stretch to start the regular season where eight of the Magic's first 12 games are away from the Amway Center.

"We're going to need it because the beginning of the schedule has a lot of road games," O'Quinn said. "We all know the road is tough."

It's no tougher than the path O'Quinn took in getting to the NBA, however. He didn't begin playing basketball until his junior year of high school, which explains in large part why the only scholarship offer he received was from Norfolk State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Although he made a huge impression as a senior with 26 points and 14 rebounds in the Spartans' upset of second-seeded Missouri in the NCAA Tournament, that went only so far coming draft time. The Magic took him in the second round with the 49th overall pick.

He made only five starts as a rookie and none through the Magic's first 63 games of last season. But from March 8 on, O'Quinn was as valuable as anyone on their roster.

"I feel like I've come a long way," he said. "I've got much more to do."

As if grabbing rebounds and blocking shots weren't enough to demonstrate his worth, O'Quinn has expanded his shooting range from beyond the elbow near the free-throw line to the 3-point arc. He went 3 for 3 from that distance in a pair of home games last week and looked near-effortless in doing so.

O'Quinn connected on 54 3-pointers at Norfolk State, but almost all of those came in his freshman through junior years. He was 0 for 4 in his two previous seasons with the Magic.

"I shot 3s in college occasionally," he said. "But the 3-pointer in the NBA is a different shot. With the confidence of your teammates and the coaches, it makes it a believable shot."

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn doesn't envision O'Quinn becoming so carried away with that shot to where he forgets what earned him a roster spot in the first place.

"If he doesn't play defense, he's not going to have a chance to shoot that knockdown 3," he said.

Not counting their 95-84 loss Saturday night to the Philadelphia 76ers where Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris were among the players given the night off by Vaughn, the Magic have held opponents to only 40.2 shooting from the floor during the preseason. Teams shot nearly 37 percent from 3-point range against the Magic last season, and that figure over the past six games is down significantly.

"They're starting to understand kind of our recipe for having a little bit of success on the floor," Vaughn said. "Defensively, when we've locked ourselves into getting stops, we've been pretty good. Hopefully we can carry over that thought process on a nightly basis."

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.



share story