Thursday, April 18, 2013


Opinion: Pro basketball, not Rubik’s Cube, in Kevin Young’s future

Kansas basketball forward Kevin Young throws up his hands after losing to Reese Hoffa in a Rubik's Cube competition following the Elite Men's Shot Put event of the 2013 Kansas Relays in the livestock arena of the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas basketball forward Kevin Young throws up his hands after losing to Reese Hoffa in a Rubik's Cube competition following the Elite Men's Shot Put event of the 2013 Kansas Relays in the livestock arena of the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo


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.


JayHawkFanToo 9 years, 5 months ago

KY will always be one of my favorite KU players. He seems to have the right attitude and temperament to be a coach some day; maybe a graduate assistantship is in his future.
Best of luck, Kevin, in whatever you choose to do.

PhearThePhog 9 years, 5 months ago

Just curious, anyone know finish times for Hoffa & Young?

Dirk Medema 9 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like it was just Hoffa that finished. Surely someone had a watch on the event, but that would be details beyond the scope of an opinion column. Maybe Jesse can do a column with some shots to show where/how Kevin lost the contest.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 5 months ago

From the shot-put competition article:

Hoffa was able to defeat KU senior basketball player Kevin Young in the celebrity Rubik’s Cube-solving competition. Hoffa, who has completed the Cube in a personal-best 38 seconds, needed a minute, 25 seconds to solve the Cube.

“Once I saw his cube, I knew I wasn’t in any trouble. If he had a Chinese or well-lubed Rubik’s Cube, I knew I’d be in trouble,” Hoffa said. “I take it seriously. Mine is a competition cube. The cube he has is 9 bucks; this is a $26 cube.”

Young said he had a lot of fun competing before a crowd that KU officials estimated at about 1,000. “When he pulled his cube out of a case, I was, ‘Oh,’” Young said with a smile. "I got a new cube and a shirt for this,” added Young, who bought a Rubik’s Cube hooded sweatshirt and T-shirt for the event. “It’s impressive on his part. He’s legit.”

Michael Bratisax 9 years, 5 months ago

A $100 cube with directions wouldn't help me solve it.

Jack Jones 9 years, 5 months ago

Kevin was a pure joy to watch ~ his energy level, his hustle plays ~ in particular, the number of put-backs of missed shots and the quick steals of opponents inbound passes following a KU made basket ~ and that ever present smile. I certainly agree with the earlier comment that you appear to have the qualities that lend themselves to be an excellent coach/teacher after your playing days are behind you. Best wishes to you and your family for the future. Thanks for helping to make this another great season of Kansas University Jayhawk basketball.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 5 months ago

My opinion is that KY should have fouled before Hoffa turned the final yellow square. Everyone knows that you don't let a guy turn that final yellow square with the match on the line.

dylans 9 years, 5 months ago

I don't think Kevin should hack that dude.

Kent Wells 9 years, 5 months ago

I thnk Kevin should have hidden a solved cube in his hair. When it was obvious he was about to lose, create a distration, boom, done!

woodscolt 9 years, 5 months ago

Kevin always made you feel all the right things about a college basketball player. That Jayhawk nation love will follow him where ever he winds up.

Good Luck Kevin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Vincent Patterson 9 years, 5 months ago

Afro 40! I definitely became a huge fan over the course of his career. All of his energy and two-handed dunks were awesome to watch. He was definitely one of the most consistent players we've had over the past few years as you pretty much knew what you were getting from him night in and night out. Once he develops a consistent 15-17 footer, he should be able to stick around and make a nice living overseas. Best of luck Kevin!

fan4kufootball 9 years, 5 months ago

Kevin - loved watching you! Loved the fro! Best of Luck - I am sure you will be successful no matter where life takes you!

REHawk 9 years, 5 months ago

Hey, Kevin, I wish we could have maneuvered for your services a year earlier. Will really miss your enthusiasm and steady inclination to make things happen. Thanks for coming to Kansas. Seems as tho right from the getgo I bounced the stuffing out of my sad old recliner, rejoicing at your style. Best of luck wherever life takes you. I agree with the folks who think you might project as a dandy coach and instructor. Come back "home" when you can.

Joe Baker 9 years, 5 months ago

Kevin Young was a special player that knew when to turn on the comedy and then put on his game face. He knows how to have fun at whatever he does. I'm glad he's a Jayhawk. I'm glad he accepted Self's offer to come and play at KU. He is the biggest comedian of any team.

Good Luck KY and enjoy life. You deserve it.

Woody Cragg 9 years, 5 months ago

Have to admit I had my doubts about his transferring to 3 diff schools, but the way he embraced this program was phenominal. Also recall his comments after boot camps saying that he loved to run. Not surprised that he had a heart for track & field after saying that. Track was our families passion for generations. Dad ran in the 1927 KU Relays.This young man has the determination & dedication it takes make a successful & happy life. Good luck Kevin. Do we see a grad asst. spot here in your future?

tical523 9 years, 5 months ago

I am going to miss the hell out of Kevin Young.

afhlover 9 years, 5 months ago

Although I have loved watching Kevin play ball since here, I had never met him before the Monday night awards banquet. I guess I just missed him last year. I have never liked anyone so much--he was so appreciative of kind words and gave you all his attention and treated you like you were an old friend. I have had tickets for 35 years, and he has quickly vaulted to my top three basketball personalities. I realize that visiting with someone once doesn't get you to know him well, but I feel like he is truly genuine. His enthusiasm and style of play were awesome. Would love to see him as a coach after he is fnished with his dream of playing more basketball. Loved that Afro!

4curious 9 years, 5 months ago

Absolutely Kevin Young is/was my favorite player to watch. His energy and fun while playing will always stick out in my mind. I really do wish him the best. I think an NBA team that doesn't give him a shot is losing out on a dynamic young dude. Good luck to my favorite KU basketball player. Hate to see him go!!!!

Lance Hobson 9 years, 5 months ago

What a perfect pick-up he was for us. Got us to a title game and if it hadn't been a horrendous five-minute stretch agains Michigan he may have gotten us a national title.

ku_foaf 9 years, 5 months ago

Kevin has so much energy. He had a great knack for "making up" after something went badly for him. He continued to improve over his entire career.

People made comments about "not being good enough for KU" when he transferred. Total bunk. He will be missed.

SaltLakeHawk 9 years, 5 months ago

Very true.

KYoung also had a monster game in one of my favorite games of all time: mizery at AFH. He was (quietly) all over the court that game making clutch plays. I'm confident we would have lost that game without his energy.

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