After a Long Journey to the NCAA Tournament, Alabama's Jahvon Quinerly Isn't Looking Back

The former Villanova guard has flourished since arriving at the Capstone and now has the Crimson Tide on the brink of making an Elite 8 appearance
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INDIANAPOLIS — University of Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly used to lay awake at night, not being able to sleep, wondering what was in store for his future. 

The Hackensack, N.J. product previously committed to Arizona in the summer of 2017 before he and his family were named in a FBI probe into college basketball for accepting money from a former Wildcats assistant coach. 

After his de-commitment, Quinerly found a home with coach Jay Wright and Villanova but that didn't last long. The former McDonald's All-American lasted one season in Philadelphia before hitting the NCAA transfer portal due to lack of playing time, only averaging 9.1 minutes and 3.2 points.  

It was time for Quinerly to find a fresh start. A new place, far from home, where he could make a name for himself for his play on the court. 

Enter Alabama and coach Nate Oats. 

After his transfer waiver was denied by the NCAA, Quinerly sat out all of the 2019-2020 season. With his and his family's name now clear of any wrongdoing, he watched from the bench and waited for his time to come and, now, it's here. 

Quinerly and the Crimson Tide are set to face UCLA on Sunday evening inside Hinkle Fieldhouse (6:15 p.m, TBS) in the Sweet 16 of the 2021 NCAA tournament.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard has had a huge say in helping change the narrative surrounding Alabama with Oats. He is second on the team in scoring at 12.7 points, while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and also averaging 3.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds. 

He shined in Southeastern Conference play, shooting 50 percent from three-point range (33-of-66) across 15 games. During the league's tournament, Quinerly earned MVP honors after a three-day performance that saw him pour in 15.6 points, three assists and 2.6 rebounds.

In Alabama's second-round thrashing of Maryland, Quinerly was the engine of the offense, scoring 14 points and dishing out a career-high 11 assists. Against Iona in the Round of 64, his play staved off an upset attempt from the Gaels.

"I'm happy where I am right now," Quinerly told the media via Zoom on Thursday afternoon. "I'm a true believer in that everything happens for a reason. I'm in a great program right now with a great system and I have a great coaching staff so I'm just blessed to be where I'm at right now."

Quinerly has scored in double-figures in 22 of the 28 games he's played in and currently on a 14-game double-digit scoring streak, all off the bench. Earlier in the week, Oats emphasized the impact that Quinerly has had on the Crimson Tide.

"He's meant a ton to the team," Oats said. "He's super talented. He can pass, dribble and shoot. When talk about basketball skill, he's at the top. He's one of the best ball-handlers and passers I've ever seen. He's shooting the ball at a high level. I think he is one of four guys in the last 10 years in the SEC to shoot 50 percent or higher from three. He's had a great year for us. He's been all about the team and he hasn't had a problem coming off the bench. He comes in and changes the pace of the game as soon as he gets in. He's playing starters minutes but he comes off the bench. We like bringing that firepower off the bench.

"He's gotten better on defensive significantly. He's got that Jersey toughness and he's bringing that out on the defensive end. He's a scrappy basketball player. He means a lot to us."

According to Quinerly, sitting out last year, watching and going head-to-head in practice with guard Kira Lewis Jr., as Lewis turned into an NBA lottery pick, helped his perspective on the game itself and his role in the program.

"One of my lows this season was just sitting out for two years," Quinerly said. "I feel like it wasn't easy not playing as much as I would at Villanova and then the NCAA denying my wavier. I felt like I lost two valuable years. Even though that was one of my lows, I tried to turn a negative into a positive by making sure I'm watching the game from a different perspective and making sure when my time comes I'm 100 percent ready...

""My decision-making has gotten so much better. I feel like my mindset of the game has matured tremendously in these last couple months and it's showing on the court."

Emmanuel "Book" Richardson, the former Arizona assistant who recruited Quinerly, plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. He was accused of taking $20,000 and using $15,000 of it to land a top point guard, which was suggested to be Quinerly. 

Later in court, Richardson's lawyer revealed, in a sentencing memorandum, that his client never gave any money to Quinerly's family. 

Oats recalled the story of getting Quinerly to end up in Tuscaloosa and why Alabama's system worked compared to others.

"When we looked at the transfer portal, Quinerly was one of the best point guards available based on his high-school numbers," Oats said. "We made the call and one of my assistant Bryan Hodgson went and visited his family. They told him the story and he told it to me. [Quinerly's] family has told the truth the entire time. It has come out in court. They never asked for money or were offered money. His mom never asked for money. Their name got drug through the mud a lot. I think that's been well documented and deservedly so, for them not doing anything. Once we got the story from them, and obviously he was cleared at Villanova to play, the Arizona thing was in the past and we were comfortable...

"I think he's better in a transition game and we play a lot faster than Villanova. They do spread it out a lot and I thought he needed to be in system that spreads it out and plays fast. We have the best of both worlds. We can play fast and let him push it early in the clock and, as it gets later in the shot clock, we can spread it out with shooting all around him. He can get in the lane and make plays."

With the stellar season Quinerly has displayed, Oats added that he "couldn't be more happy for him and his family." He also added that there should be a sense of vindication for them after all the "nonsense" they went through.

Quinerly feels that validation, too, as he and the rest of the Crimson Tide prepare to earn a spot in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2004. It would also be only the second time in program history that Alabama has gone that far in the Big Dance.

It might have taken a little longer than expected but Quinerly is living his dream and he doesn't have to stay up late at night anymore, wondering if he made the right decision. His play is speaking for himself. 

"This year has been a very special year," Quinerly said. "I said it before I even stepped on the court with an Alabama jersey on that this year was going to be special just with the recruits we were getting and the culture that Coach Oats and Coach [Hodgson] were building around Alabama. It's not really a surprise to me because I said it way back when.

"It's been a long journey for me. One of my highs for sure was winning the SEC tournament championship and obviously being the MVP in front of my parents, who were able to make it down. That was a special moment having my parents there because of everything they have been through. Winning a regular-season championship and an SEC tournament championship. I think we were one of the only teams in the country to do that this year. That was special and a goal we set a long time ago. That was definitely one of my highs."