Athlete Spotlight: Taconic's Quentin Gittens
Taconic guard Quentin Gittens helped lead the Braves to their first Western Massachusetts title in 41 years. The Braves advanced all the way to the Division II state final before falling to TechBoston. The junior averaged 8.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists over the Braves' last three games. The rising ball player stopped by The Eagle offices to chat about his team's whirlwind season and much more.
Berkshire Eagle: So who's the best basketball player in the family? You or your sister? (Taconic senior Riana Gittens).
Quentin Gittens: I like to say that I am. She'd always come to me and say "I scored however many points," and we'd just go back and forth. I think this year she finally let me get the edge that I'm the better basketball player.
BE: What were those games like as kids? Were you guys competitive with each other?
QG: She's pretty aggressive for a girl. So once I start going at her she gets pretty aggressive. Normally it ends in an argument or something, so there's no more basketball for the day.
BE: You've progressed pretty rapidly throughout the season. What are the areas you've worked on improving?
QG: I really felt like in the beginning of the year, we were missing small, key pieces that weren't major parts of winning games but we were losing a lot of close games. So I tried to make sure I paid a lot more attention to detail. Cutting down on turnovers, getting more aggressive, taking more shots. Because early on, [against] Amherst we lost by one. East Longmeadow we lost by like six. A lot of close games I felt like we should've won, and we would've had a drastically different record if we could've finished out those games. [I worked on] anything small that could make a difference between losing by one or winning by five.
BE: You mentioned your record. Obviously that affected your seeding in Western Mass. How much did [being a six seed] fuel you? Did you feel like people took you for granted just looking at your record?
QG: Throughout the whole season, we always felt like we were getting looked down upon and that we were a young team that wasn't going to do much. Once we found out we were the sixth seed we all were excited, because we knew we should've been higher than a six, especially since we beat Chicopee. We felt like we should've been higher than them. And so at every game, Robert [McCown] would always be like — "remember, we're the sixth seed." And coach [Bill Heaphy] would be like seeding doesn't matter. We know how good we are and we just kept reminding ourselves every time.
BE: If you had to be 100 percent honest, making it to a state final this season — did you think it was possible?
QG: Honestly, when we did our team goals a few games into the season, I remember coach said, "be realistic." Me and Javi[er Osorio] being captains, we were in charge of making sure that we had realistic goals. A few people spit out the state finals. We were kinda like, "let's just stick to Western Mass." I think we had a chance of getting to the state tournament, but I wasn't sure we'd get there. I was more focused on just getting to Western Mass. and winning the Western Mass. title.
BE: So when you get to the state title game and you're about to play TechBoston, what's going through your mind?
QG: It was crazy. I never really thought this far. We were never like "we're going to be one of the last two teams playing in Division II basketball." The whole weekend we couldn't really take everything in. It kind of took that Sunday to look back and be like, "we're going to remember this for the rest of our lives." It was a huge moment.
BE: Knowing you have everyone coming back other than Javi, how much motivation do you have to return to that stage?
QG: A whole lot. Coach just texted us a few days ago saying "stay hungry." We're going to have a bigger chip on our shoulder, and everyone's going to try to get after us. I feel like we're completely ready and we're going to be an even better team next year. Especially with just losing Javi. I think people are going to step up to fill his role. I think we'll be ready to try and get to the state finals and win it next year.
BE: The leadership role, is that something you think you can do?
QG: Having this whole year with Javi, and him talking to me, telling me how to be a leader and lead the team, I think he's helped me a lot. I think I'm ready for next year. Hopefully this offseason I'll be prepared to fill his spot and see what we can do.
BE: What are you planning for the offseason? Are you playing AAU?
QG: Yes, I'm playing AAU for Kingsbread with Sedale Jones.
BE: What are your goals for the summer?
QG: Really, this summer I just want to improve on myself and get ready for next season. I really want to get better with my jump shot. Because I feel like if I can get a complete jump shot it will change my game completely.
BE: Your jump shot ... You probably get this all the time but you have a very unique release. How did you develop that and has anyone tried to change it?
QG: Ever since a young age, I could never shoot. That's the one thing I've always been working on. A lot of coaches, every year, they're like "you've gotta do this differently, you gotta do this differently." Every year I try and I don't know, I just can't get it down. I feel like once I saw people like [Philadelphia 76ers forward] Ben Simmons or [Milwaukee Bucks forward] Giannis Antetokounmpo who don't have a jump shot and can still score just us much. ... I try to model my game after them to see if I can do it without a jump shot.
BE: When you're not playing basketball, what do you like to do for fun?
QG: I play video games.
BE: Are you a Fortnite guy?
QG: Yeah, I like Fortnite. I liked it a lot, but it's OK now.
BE: What is it about Fortnite? Everyone is playing it.
QG: Maybe it's because it's cartoony, so it kind of reminds you of your childhood. You feel like you're younger, and of course playing with your friends. I think it lets you relax, calm down. It's exciting.
BE: Are you the best Fortnite player on the team?
QG: I'm definitely the best Fortnite player on the team. I don't think anyone can argue with me on that.
BE: Who's the worst.
QG: The worst... Javi. He was the worst. He got better, but he was pretty bad.
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