Photo courtesy of Under Armour/Kelly Kline
By David Cordova
Throughout the summer on the Under Armour Association circuit, there are plenty of gems that go from unknown to highly-touted in the span of one grassroots season. And then there are those that hold their own.
Both of those apply to Lester Quiñones, who is currently one of the top unsigned players in the Class of 2019 and is garnering attention from Division I schools around the country. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is regarded as a top-100 prospect by ESPN, due to his offensive arsenal and ability to take over games. When he has the ball in his hands, watch out.
When asked what motivates him to be successful on the court, he replied, “Just my family, my parents. Growing up, me just wanting to be a pro, wanting to go to the NBA, so I feel like I’m living it up right now, working, achieving, working and grinding.”
Quiñones, a native of Brentwood, New York, which is a part of Long Island, started playing the game in the sixth grade and credits the early workouts with his dad for getting him interested in the game. “Early workouts with my dad, grinding to be the player I am today.”
When asked about the basketball culture in Brentwood, he replied, “Living in Brentwood, there’s a lot of basketball, whether it’s outdoors or indoors, everybody wants to play ball and they’re dreaming to play in the NBA someday, so me just working out the extra hours, while everybody else is out partying, chilling and all that stuff, I’m just in the gym, lifting weights, doing all of the extra stuff I gotta do.”
Quiñones’ strengths are his versatility, when it comes to shooting, passing, rebounding and defending, but claimed that he wanted to get better at handling traps and pressure off the ball screen.
Also, another interesting thing about him is that he is of Dominican descent. The Dominican culture has been embraced as of late on the basketball scene. Back in the 1990’s, Felipe Lopez made his mark around the nation and did so by representing his homeland to the fullest. Today, there are a couple of players who are of Dominican descent in the NBA today in Al Horford (Boston Celtics) and Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves).
When asked about his Dominican heritage, he replied, “Basketball is becoming big over there, as far as guys like Al Horford and Karl-Anthony Towns, and stuff like that. Those guys are starting to get big now, so the Dominican culture is starting to get big, to me being an addition to it, and helping them grow. I’m looking forward to joining them in the future.”
This past summer in Ontario, Canada, in the U18 FIBA Americas Tournament, Quiñones made a big splash in international play, by scoring 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. In the second game against Puerto Rico, he scored 31 points. In the fourth game against Argentina, he scored 26 points.
When asked about how he felt representing his heritage internationally this past summer, he replied, “It felt great, I felt like I did a really good job having that across my chest. I played my hardest, did my best, led FIBA in scoring, and stuff like that. I feel like I played hard and did a good job repressing my country.”
Quiñones first started out playing at Brentwood High School, then transferred out to Upper Room Christian, a private school in Dix Hills, New York, where he averaged 19.3 points per game as a junior. When asked about his time at Upper Room Christian, he replied, “I played there two years ago, that’s what really started me to realize that I’m behind with everything, to push even harder and grind even harder, so after that year, that’s when I started to blow up and my game is getting out there now.”
Last season, he played a national powerhouse St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey, where he was one of the most potent threats on the team. Hs averaged 16.7 points and four rebounds for the Gray Bees.
When asked about his time in Newark, he replied, “Going there, being the No. 3 high school in the country was great, because it put my name on the map. That was the year I picked up a bunch of high-major offers, offers and everybody [college coaches] calling me. So, at Benedict’s, that really helped me get out there, and my name is staying out there, so just working on all the weaknesses. At Upper Room, they were just coming to scout other people and I would just catch somebody’s eye, but now, they’re coming to scout me, so they’re looking at my weaknesses and everything that I do wrong, so I’m fixing all of that stuff.”
Now, Quiñones is at IMG Academy, the sports-themed institution for his post-graduate year. On the post-grad year, he is one of the team’s most featured players and has drawn plenty of attention for his outstanding play. Back in November, at the National Prep Showcase in New Haven, Connecticut, he had two good games as he scored 16 points against Woodstock Academy and against Hargrave Military Academy with 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
When asked about being at IMG, he replied, “It’s been a great, great experience, transitioning is great. Working out every day, lifting every day, running every day, just getting my body in the top shape that I can, and I feel like the strength trainer there is doing a great job as far as developing my body. The way I looked when I got there during the summer, it’s been a huge, drastic change.”
This past summer on the Under Armour circuit, Quiñones had a very strong summer with New Heights as he averaged 15.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. On his experience with New Heights, he replied, “I’ve been with them since I was in eighth grade, so being with that program for a long time, I feel like I left my name their good, and it was a good run.”
At the present time, he is being recruited by big-time schools around the nation, such as Arizona, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Illinois, LSU, Maryland, Ohio State, Providence, Saint Louis, Seton Hall, UConn, West Virginia and Xavier.
On the subject of his collegiate recruitment, he replied, “There’s a handful of schools recruiting me now, so I’m just leaning back from recruiting right now, and I’m gonna focus on that in the late period, I’m just focusing on developing right now.”
This spring, whatever school lands Lester Quiñones will gain a thoroughbred of a player, and also his best is yet to come. There’s more in store for the kid from Brentwood.