"It's All About The Game"
Athletic Young Has Made Himself Into a Player – Pt 2
Ron Bailey, Publisher
After finishing his career at Friendly High School (Ft. Washington, MD), Sam Young was able to greatly increase interest in himself from college recruiters, by playing for Cecil Kirk (AAU). [See Part 1].
Part 2 picks up with his year at Hargrave Military
Academy, and then explores Young’s experiences at Pittsburgh, both
initially and now.
October 31, 2006 – Upon enrolling at Hargrave Military Academy in 2004, Sam Young suffered from a form of culture shock. Coming from the Washington, DC area, the then six foot four inch forward was used to the lifestyle most young people enjoy in an urban area, including wearing stylish clothes, coming and going with a certain degree of autonomy (though his mother Marqette Craig did not allow him to run the streets so to speak) – basically having options.
Not so at Hargrave, a military school in tiny Chatham, VA that prepares young men for college life, who in many cases - such as Young’s - didn’t previously concentrate enough on academics. As to be expected from a school founded on military traditions, the school makes those who attend it, follow strict regimentation.
“It was like going to Hell to get to Heaven” shared Young. This included, “Marching to breakfast. Marching back from breakfast. Marching to lunch. Marching back from lunch”, and the like. He would also lament the uniforms students had to wear, as those outfits are notoriously tight and ill-fitting.
On the hardwood, Sam had no such acclimation challenges, averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds as a power forward. The team, led by Kevin Keatts, would go 28-1, and was widely regarded as the second best prep school team in the country that year.
As to be expected, recruiters came calling, now that he was qualified academically, and had decimated the always challenging competition in prep school ball. The University of Pittsburgh restarted their recruitment of him and offered a scholarship, as did, he shared, “Georgetown, Miami, VaTech, and Georgia Tech”.
Despite the attention, there was never any real doubt, as to where Sam would attend school. “I chose Pitt, because they had been there first” shared Young. Additionally, the facilities at the school, including the relatively new Peterson Event Center, were appealing.
On the court at Pitt, Young would quickly learn valuable lessons: Despite averaging a respectable 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds a game while playing in all 33 games, and earning Big East All-Rookie honors, the game in the Big East Conference and big time college hoops generally was much more challenging then he anticipated. “I had always been a driver, never really shot the ball, didn’t have to” recounted Young. “Last year, the first couple of games, I was pump faking and dunking. After scouting reports got around, that wasn’t working anymore”.
Young (23), is shown here dunking in Big East play. After opponnents scouted him, these attempts were harder and harder to come by. (Pictured supplied by S. Young)
Sam would also state “There was help defense; I wasn’t used to that”. In the Big East, he shared “You have to think it as much as play it. And you have to be physical”.
Along the way, he came to greatly value Pitt’s head coach, Jamie Dixon. “I think Coach Dixon is a really good coach. He knows everything” opined Young. “He is really observant. You have to stay up to par. He knows how to make adjustments. We are always prepared, with scouting reports and film study”.
Pitt ended up 25-8, making the finals of the Big East Championships, as well as the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Last year’s experiences showed him “What to work on and how to play”, which included the need to improve his “jumper and handle” along with his defense, where Sam stated “I have to play aggressive, but not foul”.
Building upon that knowledge base, Young went hard to work in the off-season. “I was doing three-a-days” on Pitt’s campus, shared Sam. “Antonio Graves and I would get up at 6am to lift. We would come back at 12pm for drills (agility, conditioning, and skill). And at night, we would just play”.
That work also extended to trips home: Instead of relaxing, he hit the courts in the D.C. area, including pickup games with members of other colleges, including Georgetown, and others. Being an elite caliber player, he was invited to the long standing runs at Maret High School, where not only college players, but occasional pros come to do their thing.
David Cox, a former coach for DC Assault (AAU), has known the young man “since the summer after his sophomore year” in high school, and readily indicated “He was a tremendous athlete who always had been a good scorer, even though he was raw fundamentally.” Cox went on to label Young “a tremendous competitor…a gym rat with tremendous self-motivation”, stemming in part to always feeling overlooked.
David Cox, Pitt's new Director of Basketball Operations, is shown here last spring coaching DC Assault. As a coach for that AAU organization, he became acutely aware of Sam Young, to the point where Cox admitted "We tried to get him" to join Assault.
According to Cox, Pitt’s new Director of Basketball Operations, the effects of that hard work are obvious. “I got here in July, and I was allowed to see the guys work out individually” he said. “Sam has developed a very good mid range game, out to 17 feet, and has improved his three point shooting”.
Always the coach, Cox would like to see Young improve his ball handling and “decision making off the bounce”, but sees nothing but positive developments in Sam’s future. After reiterating the young guy is a “tremendous competitor”, Cox posited “I definitely expect him to continue his winning ways”.
As does Young. “Right now, with this strong summer, I think I’m going to do a lot of big things” he said.
Which also extend to the classroom. “This summer I had a 3.2 (GPA)” exclaimed Sam. “Right now, I’m looking to make the dean’s list, again. I’m definitely proud of that”.
He should be. Young has traveled from an explosive, yet undersized, power forward forced to attend prep school due to academic inattention, to the expected starting small forward of and a honor roll student at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I wonder what they will say next” is the last verse of his
telephone message. Indeed, many good things will be said about Sam Young
in the future.
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