In college basketball, a team is made up of players of different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and ages.
Not many other places host such a unique ecosystem where one player is fresh out of a high school court while another might have played college basketball for 4-5 years (or more).
While the occurrence is not uncommon, there is no guarantee that anything will come of these two players being on the same team. In most cases, the two players are just going about their business and going about their day, but for some, the environment serves as an opportunity to bond, and that’s exactly what happened in Alabama between freshman Rylan Griffen and fifth-grader Jahvon Quinerly.
“That’s probably the newbie I’m sticking with the most,” Quinerly said with a smile during a news conference. “I took him under my wing the most because we get along really well. That’s my type.”
In terms of experience, Griffen and Quinerly couldn’t be more different. The former is a true freshman off the highly-touted class boss Nate Oats brought to Tuscaloosa, while the latter is in his fifth season in college basketball and his second program, having started his career at Villanova before making the switch after his freshman year . But both have similar stories, at least on paper, about how their college careers began.
Quinerly was a member of the 2018 stacked recruit class led by future Duke trio RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, along with a host of other recruits who have gone into the NBA. The 29th prospect according to 247Sports, Quinerly joined Jay Wright at Villanova, the reigning national champions who had just lost Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo to the NBA.
However, what looked like a prime opportunity didn’t materialize as Quinerly averaged just 3.2 points for the Wildcats in 9.1 minutes. After deciding to move to Alabama, Quinerly had to sit out the 2019-20 season after being declared ineligible, but he’s since become one of the better and most popular players in Crimson Tide history.
Fast forward to 2022-23, and here comes Griffen, a 4-star prospect and a top 5 player in the state of Texas. Griffen definitely plays more than Quinerly did in his freshman year, but the 6-foot-5 guard still struggled to get consistent minutes at all the depth, including fellow freshman Jaden Bradley.
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“I think other freshmen get a little more hype than Rylan, but he’s a fighter,” Quinerly said. “You can tell he’s a bit young and still learning, but he’s becoming a player.
“He’s a player now but across the board he’s going to be tough, I’m telling you that.”
Griffen had shared his thoughts on Quinerly later that week, and it was obvious the feelings were mutual.
“He’s like a mentor,” Griffen said. “We have a lot of chemistry on and off the pitch. He became one of my closest friends; we laugh with each other, talk to each other quite a lot every day. He took me under his wing and wanted me to be great.”
The chemistry Griffen alluded to is evident as he and Quinerly usually take turns being the first guard off the bench, either that or they come in together. Griffen is also aware that there is no guarantee that an older player will mentor a younger player and he expressed his appreciation for Quinerly.
“Most older kids don’t really do that to younger kids, but he did that to me,” Griffen said. “So I’m really grateful to him and I know we’re both going to do our thing and be great together.”
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