By Brian Yauger
Fresh off of a 37-point game against the University of Illinois-Chicago, star freshman for the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team, Darius Quisenberry, earned his third straight Horizon League Freshman of the Week Award.
Quisenberry’s 37 points in a game is the most as a freshman in YSU’s Division I era, beginning in the 1981-82 season, and the most by a freshman since Jeff Covington scored 44 points in 1975. Covington went on to be drafted by the then New Orleans Jazz, but never saw NBA time.
So far in February, Quisenberry has averaged 20 points a game and has played a key role in the Penguins’ six-game win streak. But no matter how many awards he gets, it doesn’t matter. He keeps his hunger.
“Coming in everyday as if I haven’t won anything,” Quisenberry said when asked about how he keeps that hunger. “Trying to get Player of the Week instead of Freshman of the Week. I think for me personally, just staying hungry and staying on my grind every day, coming in and working and trying to get Freshman of the Week again. That’s what I’ve got to do every day.”
Despite only being a freshman, the Huber Heights, Ohio, native has gained the trust of his coaches to be an on-court leader.
“I think coach [Jared] Calhoun, [assistant] coach [Jason] Slay and the coaching staff [have] trust in me,” Quisenberry said. “They’ve said ‘You’re a freshman and you got thrown into this role, but you’re built for it.’ I think I’m built for it as well. I’ve had to be a leader all my life and for me to come here and lead this team is fitting.”
The trust between Quisenberry and Calhoun goes both ways. Calhoun played a big part in why Quisenberry came to YSU in the first place.
“I thought it was the best fit for me out of all my offers,” Quisenberry said. “I think YSU and coach Calhoun and his vision for me here at YSU was a big part of why I chose here over the other offers I got.”
At the most recent press conference, Calhoun laid praise on Quisenberry’s game and how quickly it’s grown since the beginning of the year.
“He’s just more and more comfortable running the point guard spot in college,” Calhoun said. “It’s just a different deal from high school to college. You talk about a guy who’s gotten better and better each week and just embraced it. There’s a few guys when you recruit them that you know they can change your culture. Not only from a talent standpoint, but a makeup standpoint. Darius comes from a hard-nosed family and he brings that to our program.”
Coming out of high school, Quisenberry was named Division I All-Ohio First Team after averaging 18.5 points per game as a senior at Wayne High School. Adjusting to the game as quickly as Quisenberry has done is a rare feat. He notes the speed of the game as something that’s been an obstacle.
“The biggest adjustment from high school to college has been the pace of the game,” Quisenberry said. “I think just reading things faster and knowing where the help side is going to be and where the help side isn’t going to be. I think that’s been the biggest factor from high school to college.”
What sparked Quisenberry’s love for the game is a tale familiar to many players. Quisenberry’s father Richard was a coach at nearby Tecumseh High School where his sister attended as well.
“I was born in the gym, honestly,” Quisenberry said. “My dad was a coach ever since I was little. He was coaching boys basketball and girls basketball, so I’ve just always been in the gym from birth until now.”
Quisenberry’s sister Bianca also played Division I basketball at the University of Cincinnati where she averaged 6.8 points-per-game.
If Quisenberry keeps his play at this level, it’s safe to say he’ll be a key piece for an ever-improving Penguins team. He may think he’s playing well, but he’s more focused on helping the team get wins instead of the personal accolades.
“I think I’m playing pretty well,” Quisenberry said. “Staying humble, staying the course and trusting the process for me is a big one. I think big picture. I think that the accolades are going to come, but winning is the first thing that’s on my mind. We know that we’re very, very capable of winning in this league. If we think that everytime we go out on the court, it’s going to show.”