The Varsity Men took on West Brunswick on December 31 in the 2014 Cape Fear Academy Tournament. HCA lost the contest 63-61, but if you ask anyone in attendance that day, the score is the last thing they remember. What they remember is 6'8 junior Quate Mckinzie's devastating dunk that sent shockwaves across the state. The dunk was so great that the news channel, WWAY, already had the video slated for the evening news within five minutes of the play. Guard Marcus Scarborough passed the ball inside to Mckinzie, who went up with the ball, threw it down with one hand, while shaking the entire goal and drawing the foul in the process. The West Brunswick player jumped and fully extended his arm in attempt to block Mckinzie, but ultimately failed. The impact of the defender’s body colliding into him during the block attempt caused Quate to begin to fall from midair, slightly backwards in fact. But this did not faze him. His massive wingspan allowed him to dunk the ball even as his momentum was quickly pulling him to the ground. This all ultimately resulted in one of the top dunks of the 2014-2015 season in North Carolina, the nation's holy grail of high school basketball. “Q,” as his friends, family, and teammates call him, flexed his 7'1 wingspan and screamed out an intense "let's go!" as his fellow Crusaders congratulated him with much excitement. Then he surprised the crowd by not talking trash in the face of West Brunswick players, gathering his composure, shooting the free throw, and then jogging back down the court like nothing ever happened. You could say that he quickly moved on from the dunk because he's done the same thing so many times before, considering he's been dunking since seventh grade. But you would be wrong to say that. Quate simply does not care to brag about his playing abilities. It's just not who he is. He's a humble and quiet guy. Ask anyone who knows him and you'll get the same answer. He is a genuinely good person, plain and simple. However, to take his kindness for weakness for granted would be your biggest mistake. When you step on the court to face Quate Mckinzie, you must never forget this - you are going up against one of the best players in North Carolina, and he will show you no mercy.
I met Q in the fall of 2013, about a month or so before basketball season. I was told by our headmaster that there would be a new student in one of my classes, and I was encouraged to welcome him to HCA. I wasn't told much about this new student, other than that he was a bit quiet and that we had a mutual love of sports. When Quate first walked into the classroom, I was a bit surprised. Our headmaster had failed to mention that Q was a foot taller than me. I immediately thought to myself that he had to be a basketball player. After introducing myself, I complimented him on his shoes and asked him where he got them from. He went on to tell me that they were a Christmas gift from Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul. He must have noticed the stunned look on my face because he quickly elaborated and told me he was a member of Paul’s AAU travel team. I must have still seemed to be in awe, because he went on to show me a photo of himself and the NBA All Star. I was completely amazed. As Quate told me about himself, he never seemed to be bragging. I could tell how thankful he was to be blessed with such abilities by the way he spoke. By the time I was finished speaking with Q, I was certain of two things - he has the heart to do great things in basketball, and he was also one of the nicest people I have ever met. A year and a half later, those two things remain unchanged.
In his first year as a Crusader, Mckinize averaged 13.7 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 23 games. He played a crucial part in HCA's run to the final four of the NCISAA 2A State Playoffs, the school's best finish in years. The Crusaders went 17-6 in the 2013-14 season, and Quate won the team's most valuable defensive player award. Once again, the Varsity Men were exceptional this year. After starting 5-4, HCA won 13 consecutive games to finish the regular season at 19-4, going perfect in conference play. After claiming the regular season Coastal Rivers Conference (CRC) title, they also clinched the conference tournament title in dominating fashion. Mckinzie took home the awards for tournament MVP and Conference Player of the Year, while also making the all-conference and all-tournament teams. If the awards aren't enough proof of his incredible season, then here are the stats. In twenty-four games this season, Quate has averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 steals as the Crusaders finished their season with a loss against Northside Christian in the semifinals of the state playoffs. With 734 career points and counting, he's well on his way to breaking the HCA scoring record held by Coach Clayton Hall. I often encourage Q to make statements every time he steps on the court, and he always delivers. Aside from the awards and the dunks (yes dunks, plural) that have made the news, his accomplishments this season have been very impressive. On January 21, Mckinzie had 19 points against Coastal Christian, shooting, at the time, a season best 89%. Mckinzie dropped 20 points in the first game against rival Fayetteville Academy, and 24 points in the second matchup. He only played three quarters in each game. Along with his 24 points on senior night vs. FA, Q had a school record seven dunks in the game, slamming down five of them in the second half. In an early season matchup against Freedom Christian, one of the best teams in North Carolina, he had a career high 30 points. Finally, in the CRC Tournament championship game, he had a mind blowing 10 blocks, while also going a perfect 8 for 8 from the field. To top of his fantastic season, Q was honored with a spot on the NCISAA 2A Men’s Basketball All State Team. Mckinzie certainly made his share of huge statements this past season.
Other than his enormous talent and athletic ability, what makes HCA's big man one of North Carolina’s top recruits? “Hard work and push from parents really. I try to do this for them.” It’s evident that the Mckinzie family is a very close one. No matter what, you can always count on seeing see Q’s mother, Wanda Beal, in the stands with her youngest son Zion aka “Little Q” or “Z.” You can expect Z to be a star athlete like his big brother one day. ”Oh yeah I can dunk on Q,” Zion told me. “I’m going to be bigger than him one day!” Basketball has been a part of Quate’s life since he was very young. “Q was five years old when he started playing for Wallace Recreational Center,” says his mother. Twelve years later, Beal knows that her son has the ability to accomplish anything he put his mind to. “I would say his key to success is making his dreams come true, which is the next level,” said Beal. After a great freshman season at Pender High, Mckinzie transferred to HCA, which his family told me has been a blessing. “They really care about him here. He’s getting a good education,” says Beal. Mrs. Angie Whacter is a beloved teacher at HCA, and has worked extensively with Quate so he can reach the academic goals he’s set for himself. You’ll often hear her say how much she loves him. “He’s such a sweetie!” she says. Q has certainly felt at home at HCA. He always goes out of his way to speak to everyone he passes in the hallways, and you never hear him say anything bad about another student or teacher. In the June of 2014, WWAY Sports sent out a tweet showing Mckinzie’s playing a scrimmage at Pender High, which suggested that he may be returning to the school for the 2014-2015 season. Beal quickly replied with a tweet say “Quate is, and always will be, a HCA Crusader,” ensuring that Harrells is the school for her son. Q and his family are truly thankful to be at HCA, and it’s safe to say that all the Crusaders are happy to have them in the family.
After the transfer, Quate faced the challenge of having to adjust to the coaching style of Clayton Hall. “He’s a good coach,” says Q. “He’s one of the best I’ve had.” Hall is HCA’s Athletic Director and is in his sixth season as head basketball coach. Over the past two seasons, The Hall/Fussell family have grown very close with Mckinzie. Hall’s mother Rhonda Hall, who also works in the athletics department, always hugs Q and congratulates him after each game. Even the youngest Hall, Kate, loves “Q-Q” as she calls him. Gray Fussell, Coach Hall’s cousin, has a brother-like relationship with Mckinzie, though he’ll jokingly deny it. “He’s not as nice as ya’ll think,” the sophomore basketball star says with a laugh. “He’s brutal! And he takes my stuff; he wore my socks during the CRC Tournament Championship so that’s why he played so well.” Gray loves to give Q a hard time, and always points out the rare botched dunk or missed shot. You’ll never hear him admit it, but Fussell looks forward to playing with Quate on the varsity team next season. The Hall and Fussell family certainly have something big in common with Quate – a love for UNC basketball. When I asked him what college he would love to play for the most, there was no hesitation in his answer. “UNC. I'm a huge fan; I've always loved Carolina.” Even if Mckinzie never gets to play for the Tar Heels, there's a good chance he could face them. Q's performance on the court for Team CP3 and the Crusaders has attracted the attention of multiple Atlantic Coast Conference teams. So far, Clemson, Wake Forest, NC State, and Virginia, who are currently the 2nd ranked team in the nation. The ACC is by far the elite conference in NCAA D1 Men's Basketball, and just having a member school come watch you play is a huge honor.
|Quate and NBA all-star Chris Paul|
Other schools who have shown interest in Quate include Cincinnati, Tulsa, Alcorn State, Marshall, Georgia, Western Carolina, Coastal Carolina, ECU, and Middle Tennessee. UNCW became the first team to officially offer a scholarship to Mckinzie last summer. After an exceptional junior season and with the national exposure he gets from CP3, the number of D1 schools showing interest in the Burgaw native are sure to multiply. Team CP3 has been a crucial part of getting Q to where he is today. He gets to compete with other top recruits from around the country, all while being carefully watched by coaches from colleges all over. "It's nice to play against great talent and coaches," Mckinzie says. With Team CP3, who Q started playing for in the eighth grade, he has gone as far as Las Vegas to compete. But despite the national attention, Quate remains the same quiet and humble guy, which is very admirable.
It's almost hard to believe that someone in his position can keep their head from getting too big. His Twitter page is constantly flooded with praise and admiration from fans and reporters, but Q doesn't let it build up into a pompous ego - he replies with a "Thank you man." When I informed him that he has passed the 600 career points mark, he simply replied, "I'm blessed." When it comes down to it, Quate Mckinzie gives all the thanks to his family, coach, and teammates, while giving all the glory to God. "I prefer to let my play on the court speak for myself. My parents have always told me that's how you should do it." Q doesn't expect to be the greatest player. He just wants to be himself, and play the game he loves. While being an exceptional athlete is great, it doesn’t measure who a person is. You're going to be remembered for more than your achievements in life. You’re going to be remembered for the kind of person you were. Years from now, when I'm an old man, I won't remember Quate Mckinzie for what he did on the basketball court; I'll remember him as a kind, caring person. I won't brag that I went to school with a basketball superstar; I'll brag that I was lucky enough to call such a good guy a dear friend of mine.