July 31, 2013
By Jon Cooper
If Georgia Tech’s summer workouts are any indication, it may not take long for the question “Who was that masked man?” to go from a whisper to a scream this winter at McCamish Pavilion.
However, unlike “The Lone Ranger,” for whom the original question was posed, this masked man’s identity will be a lot easier to figure out.
Quinton Stephens certainly won’t be keeping his identity a secret. He’ll be wearing his name on the back of his No. 12 Georgia Tech jersey.
Of course, the versatile 6-8 1/2 (and growing) freshman’s potential impact on the court, with his length, shooting touch and ability to run the floor, could prevent him from staying a secret for too long.
He’s no secret to Georgia Tech basketball head coach Brian Gregory, who is happy to simply call the Atlanta native and former Marist High School star part of his 2013-14 Yellow Jackets.
“He’s super-long and you get all the intangibles,” said Gregory. “He’s a tremendously hard worker. He’s got a high basketball IQ, comes from a basketball family, and just really knows the game.
“He uses length to rebound well, defensively get deflections,” Gregory continued. “He’s a very, very good shooter and at that size he doesn’t need much space to be able to get his shot off.”
About the only thing Gregory doesn’t mention is Stephens’ nose for the ball. That’s probably because the freshman’s nose is something of a touchy — actually more of a NON-touchy — issue, as he has already had his nose broken twice this summer, the last time in open gym on his first day at Tech. It won’t keep him off the floor, however.
“I have a mask in my locker but it was just an off-the-shelf mask,” said Stephens, who expects to be fitted for a customized mask in time for the season opener. “I will possibly be wearing a mask this year, the same one you’ll see Richard Hamilton wearing.”
It was difficult to label Stephens during his days at Marist High School — he’s the first Marist grad to earn a scholarship to Tech since Matt Harpring — as he effectively played all five positions. As a senior, he led the team in scoring (19.3 ppg) and blocks (2.7 bpg), while finishing second on the squad in rebounding (8.5 rpg) and handing out 3.0 assists per game.
His versatility had a number of would-be suitors recruiting him, including Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, Tennessee and UAB. But Stephens chose Georgia Tech, swayed by the opportunity to play for Gregory and his system and with Robert Carter, Jr., his AAU teammate with the Atlanta Xpress.
“I felt that this is an up-and-coming program and I got to play with some of the players. I played with Robert Carter, Jr. and a lot of the other guys on the AAU circuit,” Stephens said. “I really liked the coaches as well. I knew Coach Gregory has a good history and they just recruited me well.”
Playing in the ACC also played a factor in his decision.
“The ACC, that’s big time,” he said. “It’s another reason why I chose Georgia Tech. I like the style, I like the players and the ACC produces really good players. I’m looking forward to playing against them.”
Stephens, an Environmental Engineering major, put as much credence on being well-rounded off the floor and chose Georgia Tech for its academic reputation.
“Georgia Tech, I believe, is the No. 1 or 2 Environmental Engineering program in the United States,” he said. “I was looking at majoring in Environmental Science here at Tech, but comparing them, Environmental Engineering really caught my eye and I thought that I would want to stick with that.”
The biggest challenge for Stephens this summer has been getting weight to stick to him, as he is currently listed at 184 pounds, 11 pounds lower than his weight coming out of high school. He’s been working with Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Bewley and has bought in to Bewley’s program even though sometimes it’s felt like he’s biting off more than he can chew.
“I’ve never eaten this much before in my life,” he said. “But it’s a process. Coach Bewley is doing a really good job with it. The weight fluctuates but that just comes with being diligent with my nutrition. Nutrition is pretty much everything for me right now.”
A big reason for weight fluctuation has been his nose. Stephens actually gained nine pounds of muscle working with Bewley, but he lost all the weight he’d gained after having surgery to repair the troublesome appendage. He’s gained about five pounds back and continue to try to beef up.
“I would say once [the weight’s] there it’s there,” he said. “Like I said, nutrition, you just have to be consistent with it but I do have a very fast metabolism. My family isn’t very big. My dad played as well and he was always pretty slim. My mom is slim. But I feel like I’m not going to hold myself to that. I have to gain weight. It’s exciting to see the results. I feel my body actually getting stronger. So I’m looking forward to gaining weight.”
While DNA hasn’t necessarily helped Quinton develop physically, his coming from a basketball family has helped him develop mentally. His father, Bob played collegiately at Drexel, where he went by the nickname “Sweeper,” was a three-time Honorable Mention All-America and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1990. He then played professionally in Europe for a decade. His two older sisters also played in high school and his younger brother currently plays at Lakeside High School.
Having the family nearby also tilted the recruiting battle in Tech’s favor.
“It’s just really comforting,” Stephens said. “I know a lot of guys that are many miles away from their family so even during the holidays they’re usually not able to see them. I haven’t been home since school started but just knowing that I’m not too far away is comforting.”
He expects to he’ll find similar comfort with his on-court family, regardless of where he’s asked to play.
“Most people know me for shooting but I really want to get better at my defense and I feel that I can help our team with that,” he said. “I want to be an all-around player. I’ve been working with the postmen and the guards, been changing workouts, whatever coach wants me to do.”
Gregory wants to see Stephens fill out. From there, the rest should fall into place.
“Thinking the game and attention to detail is a big adjustment for high school players as they come to college. He’s very good at that already,” Gregory said. “He’s still on the skinny side but he’s going to keep getting stronger because he’s a hard worker. I’ve been pleased with his progress.”
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