If You Aren’t Sold on Alabama Basketball Yet, Consider This: The Tide’s Best Player May Be on the Bench

Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — He was wearing blue the other day, his every-day color for practice despite being an Alabama men’s basketball player on scholarship.

That’s because blue is what the scout team wears.

Then you see him move and understand what the coaches and his Crimson Tide teammates have been talking about it all this time. The way he can run an offense, make crisp passes, push the pace, hassle a defender, penetrate and drive in a blur, plus finish with either hand.

After a while the perspective starts to hit home.

Jahvon Quinerly might be the best scout team player in the history of Alabama men’s basketball. He could be the best one on this team.

“Shoot, there’s days in which he’s the best player in practice,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “Even when he’s not the best player in practice he’s right up there every day. He gives you a great look.

“He’s tough to stop.”

Quinerly, a 6-foot-1 point guard who had been a five-star recruit and McDonald's All-American in the signing Class of 2018, has been spending his days acting as a nemesis to Kira Lewis Jr. because after transferring from Villanova he wanted a fresh start.

Scratch that. He needed a fresh start.

The allegations regarding Quinerly stemming from an FBI probe came from being recruited by Arizona, where he initially wanted to become the next great point guard for the Wildcats.

There’s a proud tradition that goes with the position there, from Mike Bibby and Damon Stoudamire and Gilbert Arenas. Steve Kerr might be better known as the coach of the Golden State Warriors, but before winning four NBA titles with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, and one with the San Antonio Spurs, he used to say “Bear Down” in Tucson, too.

But Quinerly never played for Arizona. The family decided staying closer to their New Jersey home would be better, only that’s doesn’t mean they didn’t all go through a rough time.

Per reports including on watchstadium.com, their finances were picked apart by investigators. The mother, who was accused of accepting money from an assistant coach only to be eventually cleared, ended up hospitalized due the emotional toll. Jahvon’s grades dropped and he struggled to get on the court.

Quinerly wasn’t run off at Villanova, but he wasn’t comfortable either. Philadelphia is a different place especially when it comes to college basketball. The Big 5 rules, and coming out on top between Penn, LaSalle, St. Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova means a lot more than any conference title.

Even when not playing he remained in the spotlight, and worse on-line.

“I felt like a cloud was following me,” Jahvon wrote in a letter to the NCAA. “People looking at me in a different way. I was judged off of things people saw on social media rather than getting to know me or who I really am as a person.”

So Quinerly transferred to Alabama and applied to the NCAA for a waiver to play this year due to the extenuating circumstances. It was denied by the NCAA Division I Committee for Legislative Relief.

Alabama appealed. The request was rejected again.

It’s difficult to form much of an opinion about what might have led to the final decision when the NCAA is such a closed-door organization, or if it simply was a case of a unique situation that had never come up before and thus there was no established grounds for granting the appeal.

Either way, Alabama was beyond upset with the outcome.

Alabama guard Javon Quinerly
Jahvon Quinerly was initially going to wear No. 5, but is listed as No. 13 on the Alabama roster. Alabama Athletics

“We can’t begin to express how disappointed we are with this decision,” Crimson Tide athletic director Greg Byrne said in a release. “Jahvon and his family have been through a set of circumstances that no student-athlete in the history of the NCAA has experienced.

“Their name has been falsely dragged through the mud for two years, and we felt confident that the NCAA Committee for Legislative Relief would recognize this very unique set of circumstances. We will continue to support Jahvon and his family in every way that we can.”

So at age 21, Quinerly’s basketball life has been centered around one thing, and one thing only, practice. Yet he hasn’t backed down.

“He’s dynamic,” junior wing John Petty Jr. said about the effort his teammate has given day in, day out.

“It says a lot about him. He’s a good person. He’s a great player. I’m looking forward to seeing him get out on the court out here next year.”

With the win against No. 4 Auburn on Wednesday, Alabama’s team is undoubtedly beginning to find its stride. The players have settled into their roles and the Crimson Tide is getting over some health issues.

As the point guard it’s Lewis’ team to run, and his name is listed on most NBA draft boards. Petty Jr. has found his scoring touch. Junior wing Hebert Jones has been the best two-way player. Transfer guard Beetle Bolden is the lone senior.

Yet the scout team often gives them all they can handle.

“He’s playing great,” Oats said. “It bodes well for us next year. We’re disappointed he’s not out there this year, we’d have quite a few more wins I think.

“He’s going to be an integral part of the program for three years moving forward. So I like where he’s at, he’s playing really, really hard.”

It’s easy to wonder how much better Alabama would be with Quinerly in the lineup this season, but perhaps more telling was that the Crimson Tide could still beat the No. 4 team in the nation by nearly 20 points without him in uniform (83-64). There aren’t too many teams that could have done something similar.

Lewis had a game-high 25 points. During practice Quinerly was wearing No. 10, the number of another Philadelphia-area player, Samir Doughty, who led the Tigers in scoring by averaging 15.1 points. 

He fouled out with six.  

His name may not have been on the stat sheet, yet Quinerly still played a part in the win.