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Seniors guards Quantice Hunter (left) and Quentin Ruff have played leading roles in helping Larkin build an 18-3 record. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media
Larkin coach Deryn Carter refers to them as the two Q’s. Royals fans know them as the senior guards keying the program’s resurgence.
Quantice Hunter and Quentin Ruff get lumped together for many reasons, from their status as the team’s top two scorers to their identical 6-foot height to their long-range shooting prowess to their ability to play lock-down defense.
Although Hunter and Ruff don’t have the biggest profiles outside the Elgin area, there is no overstating their importance to a Larkin squad that owns an 18-3 record and has asserted itself as a force to be reckoned with in the Chicago suburbs.
“(Hunter and Ruff) set the tone more than anybody knows,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “It all starts in practice because they just compete, whether they are guarding each other or on the same team. You can’t ask for much more than some of the leadership they provide.”
Lifting Larkin to prominence
When Hunter arrived on the varsity level as a sophomore he was part of a Royals team that went 4-23 for the program’s fifth straight losing season. Larkin made major strides last year as evidenced by its 16-12 record, and now the team appears poised for a long run at the top of the Upstate Eight River.
Hunter and Ruff are two of only four seniors on the Royals roster along with reserves Jason Barnhart and Hannibal Marshall. After Hunter and Ruff, Larkin’s next six top scorers include five juniors and a sophomore.
Even more talent is waiting in the wings in the form of Christian Negron, a 6-foot-8 eighth grader who wowed the crowd Saturday with his dunking ability and all-around skills as Larkin’s feeder programs took the court at halftime of the varsity team’s win against St. Charles North.
The future might be bright for the Royals, but the present is certainly bathed in the spotlight too. Larkin is No. 21 in this week’s Sun-Times Super 25 and tied for first in the UEC River, and Hunter and Ruff are determined to set a high bar for the groups to follow.
“We really want to make it difficult to get to what we’re doing,” Ruff said. “We want the younger guys to work for it.”
Added Hunter: “I really want to leave the program better than it has ever been. A lot of the younger kids look up to us and they can’t wait until they come to Larkin. We’ve shown where hard work can get you, so they know they can’t just come in here and think it’s going to be easy.”
Filling up the stat sheet
For all their similarities, Hunter and Ruff bring slightly different skill sets to the table. Ruff is one of the area’s best pure shooters, and Hunter has an all-around game to drool over.
A look at Hunter’s statistics underscore his ability to impact a game on many levels. He leads the team with 16.1 points per game and also averages 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.5 assists to go along with 41 three-pointers.
“Last year coach Carter told me I’m one of the people on the team we need to do everything for us to be successful. ” Hunter said. “I started focusing on rebounding more, trying to get some post touches, defending better and passing.”
Added Carter: “Quantice went from being a sophomore shooter to an all-around, all-area player now.”
Ruff is averaging 13.5 points, and his 2.1 steals per game highlight his ability to defend. But three-point shooting is Ruff’s specialty, and he has drained a team-best 52 treys this season.
Like Hunter, Ruff had a growth spurt early in high school, opening the door for him to play positions other than just point guard. Last year his three-point stroke was more of a set shot, but during the summer he worked to make it something he could create on the move.
“(Ruff’s) jump-shot motion is really smooth,” Carter said. “It’s short, so there’s not a lot of area for it to go off. When he gets in a groove, it’s just muscle memory. The kid can really shoot.”
Keeping an eye on the next level
Carter said the college prospects for Hunter and Ruff have grown lately as more coaches pay attention to their exploits, but for now their offers are few and far between.
When asked about their futures, Hunter and Ruff express a willingness to be patient as the process plays out, with the option of starting out at a junior college and working up from there a possibility for both.
“They’ve both put themselves in position to play college basketball, which is more than most get to say,” Carter said. “They come from great families, and what’s most important for them is getting that college degree.
“Every kid dreams of being a high level Division-I player, but what they don’t see is how valuable that college degree is. (Hunter and Ruff) will both be presented with good options, and it will come down to what’s best for them and their families.”