MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The homesick 16-year old probably never thought he’d come back to the state of West Virginia this quickly.
Quinn Slazinski was in the thick of a typical high school life – one of a 5A Texas basketball state champion – when he packed up his bags in his hometown of Houston to head to the basketball-focused Huntington Prep in West Virginia.
Slazinski had bounced around hometowns between Michigan and Texas a bit in his childhood, but this was different. He was on his own.
It was hard at the beginning, but he certainly doesn’t regret his time in Huntington. He probably wouldn’t be at WVU now if he didn’t spend two years in the state in his teens. The team bus rides to Morgantown to watch Will Grier and the Mountaineers play football on weekends were a huge part of why he committed to WVU this summer.
“Sometimes, I feel like I beat myself up for leaving home too early,” he said. “But you know, it brought me here. I can just thank God if God put that in my head to tell me to go to Huntington Prep, but everything worked out.”
At Huntington Prep, the 6-foot-9 forward developed into a three-star prospect under the leadership of head coach Arkell Bruce. He posted 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in helping Huntington Prep to a 21-7 record as a junior in 2017-18.
Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino started recruiting Slazinski in high school, but by the time he was ready for college, Pitino had departed. Still, the Texas native ended up in Kentucky on a top-five-ranked Louisville team as a three-star recruit.
In his two seasons at Louisville, he played in 35 contests. As a sophomore, he averaged 6.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 21.1 minutes per game in 20 appearances.
Prior to the 2021-22 season, Pitino called again, and Slazinski followed the two-time national champion head coach to Iona in New Rochelle, New York, where he played for two years.
“[Pitino is] really, really wise,” he said. “He gives it to you straight. Obviously, some people aren’t too big of fans of how he coaches, my mom being one of them [with] the yelling and stuff like that, but that sometimes gets people going. He never lied to you, which I really appreciated.”
This past season at Iona, Slazinski averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, shooting 42.6 percent from the field. He made three starts for the Gaels before suffering a season-ending injury when he chipped a bone in his right foot when he landed on an opponent against Fairfield in January.
At that point, time started to feel suffocating. He impressed the Louisville staff so much as a freshman that they lifted his redshirt, so his undergraduate eligibility was expiring rapidly, and he wanted to go somewhere he could compete in March. He knew that, as a graduate transfer, he had more options than others transferring to their third school, but rosters filled quickly.
“If I knew I could end up in a situation like this, there [was] no reason to stress,” he said.
Pitino had accepted a job at St. Johns in March, and not even a month later, Slazinski committed to the Red Storm to follow his coach via the transfer portal for the second time in three years.
But in mid-July, there was a shocking turn of events. Slazinski abruptly decommitted from his coach that recruited him as a teenager, and he announced his intentions to join a depleted WVU roster that had just recently introduced its one-year interim head coach.
It may look chaotic from the outside, but Slazinski couldn’t be happier about how it all played out, and he is “happy to be home.” Even with the offseason resignation of Bob Huggins, and the wave of transfers that ensued, he just wanted a chance to play ball, and to do it consistently.
“I think it’s kind of surprising to people how easy it is to just kind of focus on basketball,” he said. “I don’t want to speak for everybody else, but basketball’s just kind of been our sanctuary ever since we were kids. So, if anything was going wrong, we’d be able to bounce the ball a couple times and we’d be okay, and I think that’s no different here.”
During his four collegiate seasons, Slazinski has appeared in 75 games, averaging 6.6 points and 3.0 rebounds for his career. He has scored double figures 20 times, including a pair of 20-plus point performances. He classifies himself as an outside-in power forward that relies on the three-ball, but he can also crash the boards and use his longer frame when needed.
In a 20-minute closed intrasquad scrimmage last weekend, he drilled 4-of-5 three-point attempts.
With the revamped WVU offense that is currently being shaped by interim head coach Josh Eilert and assistant coach Da’Sean Butler, Slazinski feels comfortable that his game could take a leap.
“For the couple months that I’ve been here, I’ve been able to play free,” he said. “I’ve been able to play relaxed. I’ve been able to really, really enjoy every second I have out here. So, coming here has really been a breath of relief.”
So, now in his 20s, does West Virginia still make him homesick?
“I haven’t been this happy in five years of playing [college] basketball,” he said.