Nov. 18, 2005
By Katie Stuhldreher
Senior Irish basketball co-captain Chris Quinn may not draw a lot of attention to himself. He’s not the biggest or loudest guy to hit the hardwood in the Joyce Center. But this season, all eyes will be on Quinn as he takes over the driver’s seat of the Irish offense following point guard Chris Thomas. And there’s no man better for the job than someone who considers leadership to be second nature and winning first the priority.
Basketball was Quinn’s first love. He began playing organized basketball before most kids could master riding a bike. But Quinn doesn’t like to waste any time.
“I started playing basketball the year before kindergarten when I was living in Dallas, Texas. It was a YMCA league and my mom was the coach,” says Quinn.
By the time Quinn graduated from Dublin Coffman High School in Ohio — the same alma mater of current Irish football players Brady Quinn and Chinedum Ndukwe — he was averaging 22.4 points and 7 assists. He was named the Ohio Capital Conference Player of the Year after leading his team to back-to-back conference titles and the single-game school record for points and assists with 46 and 18, respectively.
Most high school students would be satisfied with this. But Quinn was ready for the next challenge. A strong high school student and member of the National Honor Society, Quinn selected a school that would challenge him both on and off the court.
“I decided to come to Notre Dame because of the combination of academics and athletics. It seemed to me like a place that I’d fit in well,” says Quinn.
Yet, Quinn needed some time to adjust to the college environment before rising through the ranks to become the Irish captain his junior year.
“The biggest challenge for me was adjusting to the whole situation of college athletics,” says Quinn.
“I don’t think that people understand how busy it is for us with classes and practice every day and just a lot of stuff going on. You just have to figure out managing your time. I think my freshman year Matt Carroll helped me a lot adjusting to college life and the whole aspect of college basketball.”
In fact, when Quinn first arrived at Notre Dame, he was far from big man on campus. Carroll recalled that upon first meeting him, he underestimated his ability to become a presence on the hardwood.
Carroll told Irish Sports Report in 2002, “[Quinn]’s deceiving. Guys look at him and they’re like `This guy’s on the team?’ Then they go see him and they realize why he’s a great player and a great person.”
Indeed, it didn’t take long for Quinn to start turning heads. He played in all 34 games his freshman year, averaging 3.9 points and 1.6 rebounds. That year, the Irish earned a spot in the NCAA Sweet 16. Reflecting on his Notre Dame career, Quinn singled that experience out as his fondest memory of his time at Notre Dame thus far.
“My favorite memory was definitely going to the Sweet 16 my freshman year. It was really exciting and I hope to have the chance to do that again this season. It’s something that I’ll always look back on,” says Quinn.
As a sophomore, Quinn made a name for himself as he became the second leading scorer for the Irish, averaging 14.3 points per game. He also started 25 games and racked up double figures in 22 of the final 27 contests, five times breaking the 20-point mark. In addition, Quinn proved himself to be a nearly flawless ball-handler as he boasted a stretch of 159 minutes on the floor without a single turnover.
But Quinn was just getting started. He began to establish himself as a major threat from the perimeter as well as an expert ball handler in training. With help from Irish head coach Mike Brey, Quinn stepped up his game considerably the following year.
“Coach Brey has done a lot for the program and for me individually. He’s a real players’ coach. He’s lets you play through mistakes. It’s always good to know that you’ve got a coach who is supporting you,” says Quinn.
By the start of his junior season, there was no doubting Quinn’s leadership on the team as he was named co-captain with seniors Jordan Cornette and Chris Thomas and junior Torin Francis. He averaged 12.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game, in addition to scoring in double figures in 21 times.
In the final two games he played last season, Quinn sprained his ankle against Pittsburgh and suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to Rutgers in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship.
The shoulder injury forced him to miss what turned out to be the final game of the season – the first-round loss to Holy Cross in the NIT.
Senior captain Chris Quinn enters his senior year at Notre Dame with 941 career points (10.1 per game) and 241 career assists. He has made 169-of-406 (.416) three-point attempts in his career.
“It was tough at the end of the season when I hurt my ankle a little bit and tried to come in and play a game when I wasn’t quite 100 percent. I just tried to do what I could to help the team win. The game after that I was feeling a bit better, but then I hurt my shoulder. I kind of had a little bad luck toward the end of the year. It made me realize how important basketball is to me. That made me work that much harder,” explains Quinn.
Quinn’s approach to the 2005-06 seasons is to maintain his work ethic and emerge as a senior leader.
“My goal is to go out there and help this team to be as good as it possibly can be. As a senior leader and point guard that’s my goal is just to win, ” he says.
The Irish welcomed four new freshmen onto the squad, who already look to Quinn as a leader on and off the court.
“I’ve been through three years here and I’ve played a significant role in all my three years, especially in my last two years. I think I’ve learned a lot and I know a lot about playing BIG EAST basketball. I want to be a vocal leader and I want to help our younger guys understand what goes on in a full basketball season,” says Quinn.
Reflecting on the disappointments of not playing in the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons, Quinn says that the biggest factor for success is team chemistry.
“I think the biggest challenge as a senior leader, as a senior point guard, is team chemistry. I think we’ve got talented guys who can play the game of basketball. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
In order to achieve this end, Quinn stressed the importance of mutual respect and quality time spent together outside of basketball.
“I think I’m close with pretty much everyone on the team. I think that we’re a pretty close-knit group of guys. We’re always looking to do stuff together. We always go out to get food and just hang out together,” says Quinn.
As the season draws closer, however, the question on people’s minds remains: how will Notre Dame basketball change with Quinn at the helm?
Quinn made assurances that although the two have different styles, Notre Dame basketball will remain constant overall. He says, “I think I’m different than Chris (Thomas), but I think we’re similar in many aspects as well. We’re both guys who can make plays with the basketball. I think this year I’m going to be a little more under control. I’m really just looking to do anything I can to help our team win. That’s the main goal.”
While the outcome of this season remains uncertain, Quinn’s leadership on and off the court is well established and recognized. In `04, Quinn received the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award “Academics play a large role in my career,” says Quinn. “I got good grades in high school and that has continued here at Notre Dame. This is one of the best universities in the country, and to come out of here with a Notre Dame degree makes me think that one day when my basketball career is over, I’m going to have a lot of options.”
At BIG EAST Media Day in New York City in early November, Quinn was named to the Conference’s pre-season honorable mention team.
“It’s always good to get a little recognition when you’re working hard in the classroom and on the basketball court. It’s always something that makes you feel good and let’s you know you’re doing well,” says Quinn.
After graduation, Quinn said that he hopes to continue to play basketball, whether in the NBA or elsewhere.
“I’d like to play basketball and I think there are a lot of options of where to go. There’s always the NBA, but you look at a guy like Chris Thomas — he’s over in Italy playing right now making good money. So there’s a lot of places for me to play and it’s a game I love so I hope to continue playing,” says Quinn.
For the time being, however, Quinn said that he wants to remain focused on the challenging schedule of the upcoming season and his goal of getting the team back to the NCAA Tournament.