Ever notice that it’s the off-Broadway players who are the biggest hits with the Allen Fieldhouse faithful? It’s usually not the guys who lead the team in either scoring or NBA dollars earned, rather the ones who hustle their way onto the floor and play supporting roles. Kevin Young was that guy on this year’s Kansas University basketball team.
Just watching him play, it’s obvious he doesn’t think he’s special. And he comes across the same way in conversations off the court.
Young’s appearance in the Douglas County Fairgrounds livestock arena Wednesday did nothing but grow the popularity of the senior from Southern California. It was quite the sight watching the long, slender basketball player doing battle in the Rubik’s Cube with an Olympic shot-put medalist whose shoulders look as wide as the lane on a basketball court. It was easy to tell the shot-put celebrity from the basketball player. About three of Young’s arms could fit into one of Hoffa’s.
Surprisingly, though, Young is not a complete stranger to a shot-put vector.
“When I was in high school my junior year, I went out for the track team and went through almost every event they had until I found out what event I wanted to do,” Young said.
Not surprisingly, the shot put was not his event. Shockingly, neither was the high jump. He was a very creative dunker for KU and specialized in the back-to-the basket, two-hand throw-down. But he quickly learned there is more to the high jump than jumping high.
“Actually, it was one of my least good events,” Young said. “I wasn’t very flexible. The bending part kind of got me. I ended up doing the 400, the 800, the mile and the 4x400.”
Basketball always was his first love, and he doesn’t plan on giving it up anytime soon. As does every college player, he dreams of an NBA career, but he also knows the odds of that happening are long.
“If I don’t make it to a team, I’ll just see where the ball takes me,” Young said. “I’ll probably play overseas or in Puerto Rico.”
Young played for Puerto Rico in the 2009 U19 World Championships.
“I’ll have a lot of options,” Young rightly said.
While Young plays for pay, the power forward position will be in the very capable hands of Perry Ellis.
“I think he’s going to be phenomenal,” Young said. “He’s just learning more about the game. You could tell early in the year he had his ups and downs, and later on in the year he found his spot on the team and became more comfortable with style of coach (Bill) Self. I have no doubt he’s going to be a great player, a great, great player.”
Once Ellis stopped hurrying, he found he was plenty quick enough to compete with the nation’s best college basketball players.
“His footwork is phenomenal,” Young said. “Sometimes when we do the one-on-one drills, he dominates because of his touch. You think you’re going to block it, and he gets it right over your hand, or he’ll double-clutch it, and it will go in.”
Players on big-time college basketball teams can grow big heads, but the only thing big on Young’s head is the hair that sits on top of it. He seemed thrilled to be a part of the entertaining evening in a show barn. He enjoyed walking among Olympians and competing against one, even though he lost to Hoffa, the runner-up in the shot put.
“Ten more turns and I would have been there,” Young said. “When I heard him say I had a chance, I tried to pick it up a little bit.”
As he tends to in the shot put, Hoffa finished strong, and another successful downtown shot-put show — moved indoors to a place where auctions on animals take place, where KU officials estimated 1,000 spectators turned out — came to an end.