April 4, 2017
Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Quinton Stephens knows how to play the game.
That’s going to be as important to him as he prepares to wear a suit as it was during the years he wore No. 12 on his Georgia Tech uniform.
For four years in the White and Gold, Stephens was the ultimate gamer for Georgia Tech men’s basketball. In fact, no one in program history has played more games than the 135 the 6-9 forward from Atlanta played in from 2013 through last week. Getting to the championship game of the 2017 National Invitation Tournament allowed him to blow past the previous record-holders, Malcolm Mackey (1990-93), Marvin Lewis (2001-04), Anthony McHenry (2002-05) and Marcus Georges-Hunt (2013-16), all of whom played 130 games for the Yellow Jackets.
“When I first heard I was like, `How?'” Stephens said, with a laugh. “I realized I played a lot of games but I think it’s a blessing to have a record, leaving history here. I thought it was pretty cool. Guys like Matt Harpring playing all those minutes, playing all those games.
“I was joking around with the guys, `Maybe it just takes me that much longer to make it to the NBA.'” he added. “We’ve had a lot of great players that played here. Some left in two years, some left in three, some were one-and-done. I think it was a blessing for me to play all those games and play in McCamish and play in all these arenas. I think it’s something that happened to me that has been awesome.”
See what he did there?
As smoothly and with the same quiet efficiency that he used in making things happen for the Jackets, he got out what he’d like to make happen in the future.
Stephens, who has one more date at McCamish — May 6, the day of the Institute’s spring commencement, when he receives his bachelor’s degree in business administration — snuck in his aspirations to play professionally, something he never mentioned during the regular season or the Yellow Jackets’ inspired run to the NIT title game.
Of course, then, he was too busy putting up career-best numbers without drawing any attention to himself. Stephens finished fourth on the team in scoring (10.4 ppg), was second in rebounding (7.6 rpg), tied for second in blocks (27) and third in assists (80). He raised his game in the NIT, scoring 13.4 ppg with 7.8 rpg, 12 assists and six steals over five contests.
He also was determined to finish his academic career with a similar kind of bang.
“Throughout the season, it was one practice at a time, one class at a time, going back and forth with that,” he said. “I was fortunate to not miss too many assignments over this postseason run. It’s just a couple more weeks. I’m on time. I’m doing pretty well. Last semester, I [was on] dean’s list, so I’m shooting for another one. That would be great. That’s why I’m here. That’s what I’m using basketball for … to get my degree and continue to grow as a person.”
Stephens’ growth as a person on and off the court has given him confidence that he can take it to that next level.
“Right now I’m going through the process of figuring out what agent I want to go with when it comes to playing professional basketball,” he said. “I know everyone’s path is different, so I’m not really sure exactly where I’ll end up, but I would love to play in the NBA. I love playing basketball. I love using basketball to create relationships and network and travel the world. You get to see so many cool things. That’s what I’m using it for right now. Whether I’m in China, Japan, Europe, I’m not sure. Whatever it is, I’ll embrace it.”
He’s seen the success that Georgia Tech alums like Anthony McHenry, D’Andre Bell and Stephon Marbury have had playing in China, as well as former Jackets teammates around the world like Charles Mitchell and Demarco Cox (France), Daniel Miller (Japan) and Adam Smith (Italy), amongst others, and is not averse to taking it on the road.
“It’s funny. My dream school was like UCLA. I was fine going all the way to California. I didn’t have a problem traveling with college, but I stayed in Atlanta,” he said. “Wherever God takes me next is where I’ll embrace and go from there. There are great opportunities to play overseas. I’m open to it.”
He’s as comfortable if life leads him to the real world. He feels his years as a student-athlete at Georgia Tech have given him definite advantages.
“I would say that as a student-athlete, you’re able to see both sides of whatever problem you’re dealing with,” he said. “I think I’m really good at reading people and understanding them, getting a feel for who they are as a person, understanding why they choose what they choose, their motivational preferences. I think my role as a team captain will help me in that aspect, communicating with other people. It gives you a certain level of discipline and work ethic that some people aren’t really used to. I think that over time, student-athletes can really help a company out a lot.”
Being in the Georgia Tech family provides even more advantages, especially after the `16-17 season.
“You don’t want to end the season with a loss — the way that TCU was playing, they were playing lights-out — but overall with the season, we realized, `Hey, man, it’s bigger than just us winning the championship,’ which would have been awesome,” he said. “We really set a tone for how we want to play basketball at Georgia Tech and we have a lot of people that support that, just the style that we play, how hard we play and I think that we brought a lot of excitement back to Georgia Tech, especially in the Thrillerdome.”
Making Georgia Tech basketball a hot ticket led to Stephens being in demand off the court. He credits both current coach Josh Pastner and his predecessor, Brian Gregory, for the former, and gives props to Brian Frank, his boss during a summer internship at Morgan Stanley, for the latter.
“Brian Frank, my boss, made a suggestion to me: `Use your senior year as your networking year. Your name is going to be talked about a lot. So use this as an opportunity for you to network and meet as many people as you can,'” Stephens said. “A couple of days later, I went over to the Alexander-Tharpe Fund and talked to [associate athletics director] Jim Hall about some networking opportunities and I was able to go to The Life Member Party, where I met a lot of great people and a lot of great alumni. Just sitting there and having a regular conversation with them, not even pertaining to basketball but just their experiences and life in general, you’d be amazed at the connections you have and other people have.
“I plan to continue to grow my network with the great people here at Tech,” he added. “You’d be amazed at how much people want to help you.”