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Saturday, December 27, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 1/21/2007

Newest Rocket understands shooting

He already has a nickname. And he already commands the attention of his teammates. When our photographer asked him to dunk a few balls, everybody in Savage Hall stopped what they were doing to watch.

"Wow, that was perfect," the guy with the camera said.

"Ah, the man ain't even loose yet," said University of Toledo basketball player Jonathan Amos, who was standing nearby, offering a little play-by-play.

The man, whose name you probably have never heard, whose game you have never seen, is Quentin

Patin.

The newest member of the UT basketball team is a 6-foot-2, 195-pound walk-on who was born in Louisiana, played high school ball in Milwaukee and arrived in Toledo after a stop in Ramadi, Iraq.

A new addition to the Rockets may be a dunking specialist, but not long ago he was U.S. Army Specialist Quentin Patin. A new addition to the Rockets may be a dunking specialist, but not long ago he was U.S. Army Specialist Quentin Patin.
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There are three nearby cities in Iraq that, if you look at a map and draw a few lines, would form a near-perfect, albeit very narrow, triangle. Baghdad is on the right, Fallujah is in the lower middle, and Ramadi is on the left, a mere 75 miles west of Baghdad. It is one of several areas in the country, others being north and south of the capital, which soldiers refer to as the Triangles of Death.

Patin's new teammates call him Roo. It's short for kangaroo. He has some hops, you see.

His former teammates called him U.S. Army Specialist Quentin Patin, the last name pronounced like General George's.

If UT's Rockets were looking for a warrior, they found one.

"Basketball is my life," Patin said last week. "The day I got to Ramadi from Kuwait we had a little down time. There were some outdoor basketball courts, so that's where I headed. I was there maybe 10 minutes and I heard it for the first time. It sounds like, 'zoop, zoop, zoop.' You'd better start running because the next sound you hear is rockets dropping everywhere. The whole war thing, it sort of settles in on you right away.

"It was a pretty nervous situation. Where the post ended, you'd go two or three blocks and the city started. From the post you could hear the call to prayers over the speakers in the city. After prayers ended, the rockets started. Rockets and mortars, a minimum of 10 times a day. Man "

After graduating from Pulaski High School in Milwaukee, where he said he averaged 19.6 points and 7 rebounds per game while leading the conference in steals as a senior, Patin enrolled in a junior college, worked a factory job for a while, mentored kids ages 9-13 in Milwaukee's Police Athletic League, and coached AAU ball with a guy who was an Army recruiter.

He signed up and was eventually attached to the Army Reserve's 983rd Engineer Battalion in Monclova outside Toledo. The next thing he knew he was in Kuwait for a couple weeks of training. And the next thing he knew he was on a basketball court in Ramadi hearing "zoop, zoop, zoop" for the first, but not the last time.

Patin was there for 50 weeks, from late December of 2004 to early December of 2005. It was supposed to be an administrative job. Yeah, right.

"We were a combat-heavy engineering unit attached to the Marine

Corps," he said. "Our guys pulled convoy duty, guard shifts, security detail, did search procedures. The thing is, there's no uniform enemy. There are Iraqi civilians all over the post. Your enemy and your friends, they can be a surprise. No one is the enemy until they pose the ultimate threat. And you never know when that can happen.

"Thank God, I never had to shoot anybody. I hope there are a lot of other guys who can get back here and say that."

Thousands, including several heroes from the 983rd, have come back unable to say anything. The ultimate sacrifice it is called. God bless them.

Patin said the war has an approval rating of "probably 50-50" among the troops in Iraq.

"There are some who really believe we should be there. Some, like me, were just doing our jobs. Some hate what's happening. Yeah, probably 50-50," he said.

After his return to Toledo,

Patin was shooting hoops one day last spring at the Student Rec Center and earned the attention of Tino Valencia, UT's starting center. Valencia suggested he come by Savage Hall and play a bit with the team. It took Tino about five minutes or five Patin dunks, whichever came first, to coin the nickname Roo.

Patin, a 22-year-old sophomore, tried out as a walk-on candidate this fall, but getting through the NCAA Clearinghouse proved to be as complicated as safely navigating the road from Ramadi to Baghdad. Patin's eligibility finally came through about 10 days ago, which cleared him to practice and, perhaps, play.

"A new guy shows up and you always worry about how he'll fit in," said UT assistant coach Mark Vanderslice. "But the guys just love Roo. He's a perfect fit. And he's got some real springs. He's very athletic and he's a hard worker."

Patin has been on the UT bench in street clothes for a couple games and looks forward to donning a uniform in the near future.

"I don't want to dress just to be dressed," he said. "I need to grasp the offense better. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and I don't want to be a weak link. This is a good group of guys, a good team, and when I dress I want to be able to help.

"Outside of our three seniors, it's still a young team, so there's always going to be room for help. You want to be able to sub in and not have the team lose anything. When I know the offense better, I think I can give a couple quality minutes here and there.

"Playing college ball has always been a huge dream and to get a chance to do it in a program like this, I have to give special thanks to coach [Stan] Joplin for the opportunity. Being with this team is like being part of a family. It really helps me."

So do the peaceful sounds of balls bouncing off the wooden floor and sneakers squeaking with every cut.

Beats the heck out of "zoop, zoop, zoop."

Especially for a guy who's gone from dodging Rockets to being one.



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