Jon Teitel's Player Interview Series: Lehigh Great Daren Queenan
In the latest installment of his great players interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Lehigh great Daren Queenan, who still leads the program in points scored and rebounds. Queenan is also one of just eight players in the history of Division I college basketball to finish with at least 2,700 points and 1,000 rebounds for his career. With Queenan leading the way, Lehigh made two NCAA Tournament appearances during his time in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Jon Teitel: You were not highly recruited out of high school because you were an undersized center. What did it feel like to have college coaches tell you that you could not play for them, and why did you choose Lehigh?
Daren Queenan: I did not really believe the coaches. During my junior year I played small forward, and I got some interest from Villanova, but when I switched to center as a senior, a lot of teams thought that I would not be able to play center at the next level. I started looking at some Patriot/Ivy League schools, and Lehigh was the most aggressive, so I got to know Coach Fran McCaffery very well.
JT: Your coach at Lehigh was Fran McCaffery, who was recently named coach at Iowa. What was it like to play for Coach McCaffery, and what has made him such a successful coach?
DQ: He has a good understanding of both the game and the chemistry of matching different players' personalities into one cohesive unit. He is good at getting you to focus on the goal at hand. He is a very likeable guy; even when he yelled at me, I know he had my best interests at heart. I admire him as a coach, but even more as a person.
JT: You were named ECC Rookie of the Year in 1985 and were a four-time First Team All-ECC performer. How were you able to come in and contribute as a freshman, and how were you able to dominate throughout the rest of your college career?
DQ: I was a little timid to start, but soon noticed that I could help out my team. I played pretty well in a couple of big tournaments, and I remember scoring 29 PTS against Iowa and Roy Marble (who was projected as a first round pick).
JT: What are your memories of the 1985 NCAA Tournament, the first-ever tourney appearance in Lehigh history (Queenan scored 13 points on 2-12 FG in a loss to Georgetown, who got 11 points from Patrick Ewing)?
DQ: A lot of people said we should not have been there; in fact, Iowa coach George Raveling even said it was a "farce" for us to be in the tourney because we were only 12-18 at the time, but we beat Bucknell in the ECC tourney final to get in (Queenan had 31 points and 12 rebounds in the two-point overtime win). It was intimidating for me as a freshman, but Mike Polaha played great (game-high 20 points). It was tough to go against all those great Georgetown players in addition to Ewing (David Wingate/Reggie Williams/etc.).
JT: In 1987 you scored a school-record 49 points in a three-point double overtime loss to Bucknell in the ECC Tournament semifinals. Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone"?
DQ: I think I hit a lot of threes that night. I could always go mix it up inside, but when I hit shots from the outside it usually meant that I had a great game. My teammate Polaha had a then-conference record 42 points the night before (in a double overtime ECC Quarterfinal win over Drexel), so I felt like it was my turn to step up.
JT: In 1987 you were named conference Player of the Year. What did it mean to you to win such an outstanding individual honor?
DQ: It was nice, but it would have been even better to go to the tourney; so close, but no cigar. Bucknell eventually went to the tourney. As you get older, you really want to get more team accolades; nobody remembers the individual awards, but everyone remembers if you made the tourney.
JT: In 1988 you were the second leading scorer in the country with 28.4 PPG. Did you feel like you were 1 of the best players in the country?
DQ: At the time, yes, but our school did not have a great athletic reputation, so I always felt like I had to prove myself. There was always a question of "can he make it to the next level?" When you are coming from big conference, a lot of NBA teams are willing to take a risk on you.
JT: What are your memories of the 1988 NCAA Tournament (Queenan scored 21 points on 8-23 FG in a loss to one-seed Temple, who was led by 27 points and 12 rebounds from Tim Perry and 24 points and nine rebounds from Mark Macon)?
DQ: Georgetown had dominated us in the first half of our tourney game in 1985, but we played well at first against Temple before they pulled away in the end. If we had played a few ranked teams earlier that season, then we would not have had as many jitters.
JT: You finished your career as the leading scorer and rebounder in school history. Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were?
DQ: Not really; I knew I scored a lot, but I did not realize that I had the rebounding record until someone else told me! I was a good rebounder who was very consistent, but I did not average 10-plus rebounds per game or anything.
JT: You are one of eight players in Division I history with 2,700+ points and 1,000+ rebounds (Tyler Hansbrough, Lionel Simmons, Hank Gathers, Danny Manning, Larry Bird, Elvin Hayes, Oscar Robertson). What does it feel like to be included in such a prestigious group?
DQ: It is nice, but I think that most fans (and even the other 7 guys in the group) would say "who is that?"! Even now there are only 100 or so players who have reached the 2,000 points/1,000 rebounds plateau, so I am happy to be in that exclusive group.
JT: How were you able to be such an amazing scorer? God-given ability, hard work, luck, other?
DQ: Many scouts questioned my shot, but they said I was an NBA-quality athlete with a great vertical/release. I could really elevate, and I could make a jump shot off of just a couple of dribbles. I knew how to score down low on taller players due to having played in the post in the past, and I had a lot of experience playing summer league games against guys like Dallas Comegys (a first round pick in the 1987 draft) and my cousin Brian Shorter (who played at Pitt and later overseas as a pro).
JT: In 1989 you won the CBA All-Star weekend Slam Dunk title as a member of the Charleston Gunners. What was your all-time best dunk and how did playing in the CBA compare to college basketball?
DQ: I once won a dunk contest by tapping it twice off the board and then spinning around in mid-air. The CBA was very different than college; the college game was more team-oriented, but the CBA had a lot of individuals who were trying to get to the next level. I remember my rookie year in the CBA when people were surprised that I made the All-Star team after coming from a small school. I told my coach (current Wizards coach Flip Saunders) that I was going to play abroad to make some money, as I could not wait for the NBA to come, but he said that if I hung around I would be one of the top guys to get called up.
JT: After retiring from the CBA you played professionally in Germany,Spain and Belgium. What did you learn from these experiences and how did they compare to college basketball?
DQ: I became a better jump shooter because teams would sit back in a zone defense a lot of the time because their big men could shoot from the perimeter and did not have to play the post. I did not meet a lot of great coaches in Europe at first, but they would run us to death because they believed in conditioning. The coaching started to get better when guys like Hubie Brown and Jim Lynam came over and led coaching clinics, and now the European coaches are vastly improved.
JT: What have you done with your life since retiring from pro basketball?
DQ: I work for TIAA-CREF as a certified financial planner.
JT: When people look back on your career, what do you want them to remember the most?
DQ: I appreciated the people who came out to watch me and believed in me. I always tried to thank the fans and get involved in the community. I also talked to the younger players to let them know that you do not always have to believe the scouts who think that you cannot make it to the next level. I told them how they would have to do A-B-C to get to the place where they wanted to be; you have to have the desire to make it.
Queenan is also on Jon's list of best fantasy players in Patriot League history
American: Russell Bowers (1981) 2,056 PTS (#1), 54.5 FG% (#4)
Army: Kevin Houston (1987) 2,325 PTS (#1), 379 AST (#3), 126 STL (#2), 86.9 FT% (#2), 47.7 3P% (#1), two-time All-American, conference Player of the Year
Bucknell: Mike Bright (1993) 1,670 PTS (#3), 206 3PM (#3), 120 BLK (#3), 286 STL (#1), conference Player of the Year
Colgate: Adonal Foyle (1997) 1,776 PTS (#2), 1,103 REB (#1), 492 BLK (#1), 54.7 FG% (#2), two-time All-American, two-time conference Player of the Year
Holy Cross: Ron Perry (1980) 2,524 PTS (#1), 88.5 FT% (#2), four-time All-American, conference Player of the Year
Lafayette: Tracy Tripucka (1972) 1,973 PTS (#1), 83.4 FT% (#5), three-time All-American
Lehigh: Daren Queenan (1988) 2,703 PTS (#1), 1,013 REB (#1), All-American, conference Player of the Year
Navy: David Robinson (1987) 2,669 PTS (#1), 1,314 REB (#1), 516 BLK (#1), 160 STL (#3), 61.2 FG% (#1), two-time All-American, three-time conference Player of the Year, national Player of the Year