In South Carolina’s first NIT Championship season, it was a gangly Tarence Kinsey who delivered with a last second three pointer to seal the deal. He was a nice compliment to Carlos Powell during the NIT run of 2005 and remained the second fiddler in 2006 to tournament MVP Renaldo Balkman.
It seems the quiet road that hides behind the spotlights is the one Kinsey travels most. Maybe he likes it that way. Fittingly, he went undrafted and signed as a free agent with a quiet franchise in in a quiet city - the Memphis Grizzlies. He was injured to start the season, prompting most Grizzly fans to ask, “Who’s the skinny kid in street clothes?”
Shhhhhh. That’s Tarence Kinsey. He can shoot.
One of the most well respected basketball brains in the industry, Jerry West, is usually right when he makes a decision. So why sign a human string bean who’d get knocked from one end of the floor to the other in the NBA? The way Kinsey tells it, West was on him from the beginning, “Jerry West called my agent and said, ‘If anything goes wrong, we want him on our Summer League team,’”
Tarence opened eyes in the Memphis front office with a tantalizing performance for their Summer League squad.
Eventually signing Kinsey, Jerry West said, “Tarence is a versatile, talented young player. He can defend in multiple positions and score in a variety of ways.”
It looks like West knew more than the so-called experts all along. With injuries to Mike Miller, Damon Stoudamire and Chucky Atkins depleting the Grizzlies depth, Kinsey jumped on the opportunity.
In four of the Grizzlies’ last five games, Kinsey has exceeded thirty minutes, eclipsed double digit scoring totals and shot .500 from the floor. Though the numbers jump off the page, it’s the unlisted highlight that really impressed NBA executives the most.
A sweltering Kobe Bryant, entrenched in one of the NBA’s greatest scoring streaks ever (53.6 ppg in the previous five games), he probably had no idea the once silent Gamecock was about to end it. On this night Kobe would only shoot 7-for-26 on his way to 23 points with Kinsey pressuring him into countless ugly shots. Kinsey, however, dropped a career high 24 points on Bryant, hitting 10-of-18 shots from the field. Not only did he outscore Bryant, he out rebounded him seven to five while helping undermanned Memphis top the Lakers 88-86.
"It felt great, undrafted and getting playing time now, coming to L.A. and playing against Kobe (Bryant) on their court and helping the team get a victory, that's a great feeling," Kinsey said.
The performance prompted his teammates to surround his locker with bottles of Gatorade after the game. A prank, this was their way of acknowledging Kinsey as the Gatorade Player of the Game.
Left to assume the gesture beats out the missed NIT MVP trophies in his past, Kinsey simply said, “It was a nice joke.”
John Clemeno, Memphis beat writer for RotoWire.com, reported that interim coach Tony Barone intends to get Kinsey more playing time down the stretch.
Think about it, the second fiddle to Carlos Powell and then again to Renaldo Balkman just ended Kobe Bryant’s five game scoring clinic while outplaying him all night. This happened, of all places, right down the street from the brightest lights our nation has to offer - Hollywood.
Who said he was the quiet kid after all?
Tarence Kinsey celebrates during his March 27th performance against the L.A. Lakers.