Kevin Young, bench might be needed

Sunday, March 18, 2012

— Word spread all the way here that back home in Lawrence people were so fired up about Missouri getting knocked out of the NCAA Tournament the city decided to hold a downtown parade Saturday and encouraged everyone to wear the color of the school that bounced the Tigers.

Is that true? Did green-clad basketball nuts really line the downtown streets, and was Norfolk State center Kyle O’Quinn really invited to be the parade’s Grand Marshal?

Amazing. And to the think the No. 15 seed Spartans didn’t get a point from their bench in upsetting Missouri. So why all the concern about Kansas University’s reserves coming into the tournament? After all, the TV timeouts are longer, and the adrenaline pumps faster to fuel stamina.

True and true, but you never know when either foul trouble can arise or a freaky physical factor can come into play, such as the leg cramps that kept Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor out of all but the first couple of minutes of the second half.

A bench isn’t always important, but it’s a terrible thing not to have when it’s needed. It’s rare for Bill Self to bring so little experience and firepower off his bench as this season, but it’s trending upward, thanks to the improved play of energetic reserve Kevin Young, a junior transfer from Loyola Marymount.

“I love playing with him, man, because his intensity is always high, always high,” Taylor said. “No matter what he’s doing, he’s going 100 mph.”

Sounds a little like Taylor.

“Exactly,” Taylor said. “I was just about to say, sometimes it gets him in trouble, but you can live with that when you know he’s going hard, and he’s just trying. I love it when he’s on the court with me. (Purdue) is going to be a big game for him because they play small, and he’s going to be a big part of having to guard Robbie (Hummell) and the other guys who can stretch the floor.”

Early in the season, defensive deficiencies made it difficult for Young to stay on the court. Stronger players overpowered him, quicker players beat him off the dribble.

“I’ve been trying a lot to improve on it,” Young said.

Much of the improvement comes from facing a variety of styles in practice.

“I’ll guard anyone from Thomas (Robinson), Jeff (Withey), Justin (Wesley), all the way to Elijah (Johnson) or Travis (Releford),” Young said.

The toughest guy to keep from scoring?

“Probably Thomas, just because of his strength,” Young said.

Young’s not a banger like Robinson, but he can hustle his way into position for rebounds and had a big night in KU’s tournament opener, scoring nine points and making five of six free throws.

“K.Y.’s good, man,” Taylor said.