Sunday, August 28, 2011

Junior hoops player Kevin Young maturing, fitting in



Kansas junior Kevin Young

Kansas University basketball newcomer Kevin Young didn’t cite Tyshawn Taylor’s speed, Thomas Robinson’s strength and/or Elijah Johnson’s hops when asked to identify what’s impressed him the most so far about the 2011-12 Jayhawk team.

The 6-foot-8, 190-pound junior transfer out of Loyola Marymount University named an intangible — one that figures to serve the squad well in a rebuilding/reloading season.

“It’s the high level of basketball IQ,” said Young, who arrived on campus in mid-June — and, save for a two-week trip to his hometown of Perris, Calif. — has been busy bonding with his new teammates.

“Like before we went out to play open gym yesterday, the older guys took me aside and a couple other younger guys and taught us the plays to let us know what’s going on. While we play, if we make a mistake that they know coach (Bill Self) would get on us for, they get on it themselves to mentor us,” Young added.

He said the main leaders in daily pick-up games have been juniors Robinson and Johnson and senior Taylor.

“It’s mostly a group effort. Everybody has something to say,” Young said. “In the post, if I don’t seal the right way, Jeff (Withey) or Justin (Wesley) will come over and say, ‘You’ve got to do it like this.’ If I don’t cut to the basket, (Conner) Teahan or Jordan (Juenemann) will be, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this.’ It’s a great team and great bunch of guys to be around.”

It goes without saying Young has also been impressed with the actual action on the court.

“Tyshawn and Thomas — those two on the court at the same time — it’s pretty amazing,” Young said. “(Robinson) is very smart and very skilled. He wants to push us as much as we want to push ourselves. Tyshawn will sit there and coach us on the side when we are not in the game or when we are in the game he’ll push us as much as T-Rob.”

Young — he didn’t play last year while focusing on academics and completing his associate’s degree at San Bernardino Valley College, while also working as a volunteer assistant coach at Barstow CC — is part of a large incoming class that includes Braeden Anderson, Ben McLemore, Merv Lindsay, Naadir Tharpe and Jamari Traylor.

“I guess more knowledge to the game, seeing it the way a lot of others haven’t seen it,” Young said, asked what he brings to the table. “Running up and down the court even in open gym, hustling for every play, diving for loose balls, all the little things.

“I can shoot a little bit,” noted Young, who hit 45.4 percent of his shots in two seasons (242-533) at LMU, including 27.3 percent of his threes (38-139).

“I love to go get the ball because it’s the one aspect of the game you can be selfish in. When it comes to rebounding you can go get every rebound. I like to look at every missed shot as a pass to me pretty much. As long as I think of it that way I am going to go get every rebound or at least try to get every rebound.”

His teammates have noticed a focused player.

“He’s real active. He works hard with and without the ball,” KU junior forward Travis Releford said of Young, who has gained 10 pounds since arriving at KU, with designs on weighing 215 by the start of the season. “One of the big parts of his game is running the floor, making hustle plays. His jumper is good. He’s a good kid on and off the court.”

KU coach Self noted that Young, who averaged 10.7 points and 7.2 rebounds a game his soph season at LMU, “is a guy who gives us a perimeter athlete who is long. Travis is the only one we have like that. Kevin gives us a second one. He can play the 3, 4, wherever. He can play the 2. He’s so mature.”

The maturity was helped by Young spending a lot of time around coaches last season. He worked for Barstow coach Reggie Howard the first semester and practiced with the women’s team at San Bernardino Valley the second semester.

“I helped out, gave coaching drills,” Young said of his work at Barstow. “Seeing the way players view coaches from the other side ... just the body language and the little comments or small remarks, sometimes they are unacceptable. To see that from the other side made me grow as a person and player both.”

With the women’s program at Valley ... “I ran through drills with them,” he said. “The coach (Susan Crebbin) helped me with my jumper. It wasn’t about working on what I was good at. It was about working on my ballhandling, my passing, my setting screens, all the little things to make my game better.”

Young is highly-regarded enough to have landed an invitation to this summer’s Puerto Rico Olympic training camp where he likely would have earned a spot on Puerto Rico’s 2012 Olympic team. Young declined in order to spend some time with his family in California and also not miss any class time at KU. If all goes well, he’ll play in the Olympics in 2016.

“My grandparents grew up there. They’ve passed a rule that third generations can play on national teams,” Young explained. “I took advantage of that and played for the 19 and under team (last summer when he averaged 7.7 points off 55.2 percent shooting in winning five of nine games at U19 championships). It was a great experience. It showed me what I had to do to help the team win was more important than being the best player on the team, than becoming the star of the team.”

He said he’s ready to take on whatever role is asked of him at KU.

“I’m approaching it like I’m a new guy to the team and I’ve got to earn my spot. I’m staying in the gym as much as I can,” Young said. “There’s been so much hard work to get here. I will keep working hard every day.

“I want to help bring another title here. Walking through the hallways, seeing all the pictures up there (of 2008 title team) and seeing all the history ... I think we can be part of that as well here, not just being another player that goes through Kansas or just being another team. I feel like we can actually win it all.”


Kevin Studer 6 years, 9 months ago

It'll be interesting to see throughout the year which newcomers get worked out of the rotation. As has been the case with the rest of Coach Self's big classes, I expect at least one or two of them not to be around next year.

jksport 6 years, 9 months ago

I think that this kid is going to be the real deal. A little weight on him and some time to learn some post game and he will be special. Looking fwd to it. I think he and McLemore will be very important this year.

Jeff Coffman 6 years, 9 months ago

Just as a note, I think he has 2 years of elgibility left and one recruit has only 1 year of elgibility left. I think these two players are almost a depth into what we have for the short term. If they provide the depth that Self wanted from them, we will have a stellar year and win the Big XII and do well in the tournament.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 9 months ago

Young has 2 years, and the 5 listed are all freshmen. There was some talk last spring about a F from Vanderbilt (?) that graduated and was possibly going to join the team with 1 yr left, but I don't think that ever happened and isn't listed above as 1 of the 6.

ClydeTurnbuckle 6 years, 9 months ago

It was Andre Walker. I don't remember where he ended up going.

LaJHawk666 6 years, 9 months ago

I think Walker ended up at Xavier (but I'm not positive). I seem to remember both teams had uncommon first letters.

I feel Young is a much better get for KU.

DDDHawk 6 years, 9 months ago

It sounds like Kevin has an excellent attitute going into this year. I love that his experience level is higher than a customary newcomer to the team. Good luck, Kevin!

kerbyd 6 years, 9 months ago

"I like to look at every missed shot as a pass to me." Love it!

REHawk 6 years, 9 months ago

I view Kevin Young as an important piece of the puzzle, right from day one. By late January BenMac most likely will become indispensable for major minutes. If Naadir Tharp develops quickly, and one of the other bigs matures into the promising role of a Darnell Jackson, this team could become very special. Jeff Withey, you must step up bigtime! Thomas, grind yer molars and pop out with a grin over that Dickie V slight. Punish that fool every time you lace up the tennies!

b_hux 6 years, 9 months ago

I'm really looking forward to seeing him play. Sounds like a smaller version of T-Rob to me! And, I also think he, McLemore and Tharpe will all be very big.

chriz 6 years, 9 months ago

I like this quote: "Seeing the way players view coaches from the other side ... just the body language and the little comments or small remarks, sometimes they are unacceptable. To see that from the other side made me grow as a person and player both.”

Tony Bandle 6 years, 9 months ago

Knowing Coach Bill and his penchant for experience, I would venture to say that opening day, barring any unforesen developements, it will be:

Tyshawn, Elijah, Travis, TRob and Jeff.

First off the bench will be backliners Naadir, BenMac and frontliners Kevin, Justin and maybe Jamari.

It is possible and even likely that as the season developes, this rotation will evolve.

I think that with the number of new players and the loss of the twins, the season will see some rough spots, but I also see a team that will get better, stronger and sharper and become dangerous by March!!

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