DQ Cole, A son of Pontiac

Photo Courtesy of TZR Sports

It’s safe to say that Oakland’s roster will look different next season. A core group who endeared themselves to the Golden Grizzly family forever has moved onto their next journeys. However, there are pieces to last years puzzle that are returning to the blacktop for the 2024-2025 campaign. 

One familiar face has already etched himself in university history. The dagger three in Oakland’s first Round of 64 NCAA Tournament victory, a win that ended Coach John Calipari’s Kentucky tenure, was a moment heard, and felt, around the college basketball world. But DQ Cole is ready to be more than just the maker of that shot. In fact, he’s ready for his game to explode. And considering his story, it would be unwise to bet against him doing just that. 

Cole grew up in Pontiac, Michigan, and lived there or in Auburn Hills, Michigan his entire time growing up. It is known around the area that Pontiac can not alaways be am easy place to live, but there have been many resources put into helping many Pontiac children find success in school, and life in the past decade or so. One of those pathways to success is sports, and Cole found his way on this road from the beginning.

“I bet I’ve used every gym in Pontiac and every gym in Auburn Hills. Any gym you can name in that area I have probably been to it,” Cole said.

“Basketball has always just been my life.”

Cole says he picked up the game at an early age, while always dreaming big about where it could take him. His inspiration for those big dreams came from his family, where he had older brothers find success in sports.

“I always looked up to my brothers,” Cole said. “I have an older brother that plays professional baseball, and another brother that played in college. One of them was actually drafted by the Angels in the MLB. So it has always been motivation for me to make it to where they made it.”

While Cole was growing up watching those around him have success, it gave him a clear picture on what it takes to get to where you want to go. He acknowledged that it was not always easy, but his support system always kept him strong.

“It was sometimes hard staying on track. In Pontiac, it’s very easy to get sidetracked by things, people pulling you in a lot of different directions and to different lifestyles, but you got to just stay consistent with what you want to do. I was blessed to meet Coach Gordie, he is basically a father figure to me. He showed me what real work and goals are like. I have a bunch of other great people in my life to show me the way too, and what it is like to play basketball at this level and compete.” Cole said.

Coach Gordie was a coach for Cole’s AAU team, Prime Time. They had great success together on and off the court, but Cole acknowledges he never blew up as a prospect.

“I was kind of under the radar. I never played any EYBL, I never played on the adidas circuit or anything like that. I was just always a kid that had a dream and wanted to play basketball.”

His days at Pontiac High School saw him lead them to plenty of victories. Cole led Pontiac to a District Championship, and began to see some college interest roll in. However, due to some academic issues, Cole’s options were limited at the time.

 “I had a low GPA in high school, so I didn’t have anything over the JUCO level,” Cole said. “On top of that, I only had two or three of those schools looking at me. Schoolcraft and Henry Ford each came to a couple of my practices and then after one of our games my senior year I got a call from Coach McKendree at Schoolcraft and he offered me a scholarship to come play JUCO ball there.”

Cole took his talents to Schoolcraft, and enjoyed a nice tenure there. Cole averaged a little over 12 points a game at Schoolcraft, and helped the team get in position to make the national tournament, until COVID struck. The pandemic had its effect on everyone, but it changed a ton of Cole’s plans. He ended up taking a year off, just focusing on getting better. Then, it was time to jump back in.

Cole hit the JUCO ranks once again, this time at Henry Ford Community College. There, was when it finally started feeling like it was coming together for Cole.

Cole averaged 18 points a game as well as nine rebounds a contest, en route to being selected to an All-American team at Henry Ford’s level. 

While Cole was focused on the success of Henry Ford as a team that season, he had a bigger goal in mind.

“When I came back to school and I knew I was going back to juco at Henry Ford, I knew I wanted to play at Oakland.” Cole said. “I had a child and I knew I wanted to stay close to home. The summer before that last JUCO season it was just grinding. All I wanted was to get that offer from Coach Kampe so I could stay home and play here. I put in countless hours of work, just trying to get here. I had my mind set on where I wanted to go, and it worked out.”

It worked out indeed.

Cole’s all-american season, combined with his focused effort in the classroom, led to that Oakland offer coming his way. He soon after committed to the Golden Grizzlies, and credits the road he took as to what got him to that point.

“I tell guys all the time that I would recommend juco for you,” Cole said. “If you don’t have what you like as far as where you feel like you could play, it is perfect. I feel like juco turned me into the man I am today. Learning how to fend for yourself, having to figure things out on your own, it was a great experience. It’s a great place to figure your life out.”

His decision to become a Golden Grizzly was an easy one. There was the want to stay close to his son, but there was also a built in love for the program. 

Cole went to the O’rena all the time growing up, as it was a mere few minute drive from home to campus. He looks back on those days very fondly, and remembers taking inspiration from those who donned the Oakland uniform.

“Seeing Kay Felder, Kendrick Nunn, Jamal Cain, with Jamal being from the same city as me, it was love at first sight. I still remember when Kay’s shot rolled around the rim at the Palace against Michigan State. That moment was like, ‘I have to experience that in an Oakland uniform’, and luckily I’ve been able to do that.”

This past season, Cole started out a tad slow, but found some rhythm after a little bit of getting used to playing point guard. He finished out the year strong as the team’s starting point guard, finishing the year with 8.7 points a game, 4.2 rebounds a game, and 2.1 assists per game. He also tied a school record with 36 games played in one season. Tying that record was made possible because of Oakland’s participation in the NCAA Tournament, an experience that Cole will never forget. 

“All of it was surreal. From the media, to my teammates being there with me, to the travel with police escorts on bus rides, to the entire O U community being there, it was something I never experienced in my life,” Cole said. 

He then mentioned many of his teammates as a reason for the specialness of the moment. 

“That ride was especially special though with guys like Blake, Trey, Jack and Chris. Those guys, they made it a hell of a lot more fun because we were all  for each other and that’s what it came down to. Even since we lost we still always show love. Everybody still contacts each other on a daily basis. We knew we were supposed to be there, and that’s why Jack said we weren’t a Cinderella. We knew we deserved every bit of it because of the work we put in with each other.”

Cole certainly had put in the work, and his performance to knock off Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament was definitely a result of his journey. Cole poured in 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He stuffed the stat sheet while also going a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. One of those threes continues to stand above the rest, not just in Cole’s history, but in Oakland’s history. 

The final three Cole made came with time winding down and gave the Golden Grizzlies a two possession lead, a margin they ended up winning the game by. Cole elaborated on being the guy that provided the highlight that will live forever.

“It feels great just to have all the love and support from that shot. To be able to hit that shot was a dream come true. I knew all the work I put in and that was a pay off. In that corner, in front of our bench, a shot with the game on the line against one of the biggest programs in college basketball history. It was definitely surreal. Everyone was just together all night. Every time Jack shot a three or every time anybody made a play everybody believed it was going in. There wasn’t a doubt in anybody’s mind that we weren’t gonna win that game.”

Cole, unprompted, then added this.

“And getting that far gave me some extra hunger to be able to experience that again.”

While Cole helped send Oakland to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, he knows there is more to come. There have been changes, but the roster is loaded up once again for a run at more history.

“I know me and Isaiah have been putting in a lot of work. We’ve been in the gym, getting some run in together. I know Buru is working, Coop is working. I don’t see why we can’t be in the same position as this past year.”

Cole knows he needs to become more of a leader this upcoming year, not just on the court but off.

“As far as me scoring, I believe I can make the whole team go,” Cole said. “I feel like everybody will be comfortable with me. I’m putting in a lot of work right now. Just getting my body stronger and getting lots of shots up. This year I expect a lot out of myself. I expect to be a leader and be able to lead us far.”

Cole carved out a nice niche on the court last year in a lineup of mostly prove guys, and thinking about him with a year to be get comfortable, combined with seeing him at more at his natural off-ball position, should excite Golden Grizzly fans. He will more than likely be on a Horizon League preseason all-league team, with thoughts of being more.

He also brought energy daily, becoming a guy that others looked too as a vocal leader. He brought an attitude to a team that needed some.

That quote was spoken by none other than DQ Cole. When asked if that was him, he let a wry smile come across his face, allowing a quick look at that confident attitude he exudes into the program. 

Oakland will have a target on its back next year, and it will be a new team overall trying to build off a historic year. While last years team and players will live on forever, next years bunch will have big dreams of their own.

DQ Cole has not let a lot stop him in achieving his dreams.

So why would anything stop him now?

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