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Herald Sportsperson of the Year: Quinton Hooker

UND's Quinton Hooker goes for a layup during a game against Sacramento State last season at The Betty. Photo/Joshua Komer, Grand Forks Herald)

When UND men's basketball moved to Division I in 2008, thoughts of making the NCAA Tournament were few and far between. The Hawks had no real conference home; nonconference games were hard to schedule; and recruiting was a challenge

Then, Quinton Hooker decided to play basketball at UND.

Things began to change, as Hooker—year-by-year—began to take over the program, continually pushing it toward success.

In his senior year, Hooker carried UND basketball to a Big Sky Conference tile and the program's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

For that accomplishment, Hooker has been selected as the Herald's Sportsperson of the Year.

The Herald has selected a sportsperson of the year since 1996 and the award can be an athlete, coach, fan or organizer.

Hooker brought more than his ability to score to UND. The Brooklyn Park, Minn., native, who now is playing professionally in Poland, also had intangibles few other players had—mainly leadership and grit.

"It's hard to put into words what 'Q' brought to our locker room, campus and community," said UND coach Brian Jones. "He's basically the poster child of our program with the way we want our guys to go about their everyday business."

In his senior season, Hooker averaged 19.3 points; he played an average of 35.8 minutes per game and his assist-to-turnover ratio was remarkable—115 assists to 56 turnovers.

In the big games, however, Hooker was at his best.

Against Weber State in last season's Big Sky tile game, Hooker scored 28 points and played 44 of the 45 minutes in UND's 93-89 overtime win that sent the Hawks to the NCAA Tournament.

There were a handful of times when it appeared Weber would pull away. Hooker refused to let it happen.

At the end of the game, Hooker—emotionally and physically drained—got down on his hands and knees at midcourt of the Reno Events Center to give thanks. His goal of leading UND to the NCAA Tournament had been accomplished.

Against Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Hooker scored 25 points in the Hawks' 100-82 loss to the second-seeded Wildcats.

Before the game, Arizona coach Sean Miller called Hooker—and his backcourt partner Geno Crandall—one of the best backcourt tandems his team faced during the season.

"So many times, 'O' put us on his back and carried us," said Jones.

Jones said Hooker's toughness was evident throughout his career.

"In his junior year, he tears his plantar fascia at Bradley," said Jones. "He has to sit out; the team comes together and he returns to the game. The team took a cue from him about toughness and what it took to win.

"He played hurt the rest of the year, rarely practicing. That showed the toughness he had. It was never about him; it always was about the team."

Herald Sportsperson of the Year

The Herald names a Sportsperson of the Year from Grand Forks and the area annually, Shane McMenamy was the first selection in 1996, Other winners have been Dean Blais, '97, Jenny Crouse '98, Kinsey Coles '99, Briona Reynolds '00, Dale Lennon '01, Kelly Roysland '02, Jerome Beasley '03, Nick Mertens '04, Mike Berg '05, Mark Kroulik '06, Ryan Duncan '07, Tim and Tom Wynne '08, Mark Kauk '09, Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux '10, Mark Dobmeier '11, Gene Roebuck '12, Brian Idalski '13, Madi Buck '14, Dave Hakstol '15 and Drake Caggiula '16

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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