Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Young's wild, counterproductive shot
By Eamonn Brennan
A funny thing happened in Lexington, Ky., these last few months. To most of the outside world, Julius Randle, the gem of coach John Calipari's probably-best-ever recruiting class, has been the chief Wildcat to watch. He was named preseason SEC player of the year on the strength of that reputation; if Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker aren't chosen No. 1 overall in next June's NBA draft, it will be because Randle stole the show.
That may all be true, but inside Kentucky's practices, a different narrative has emerged. Calipari has tasked Randle with playing higher in the key than he ever had to in high school, and the adjustment period has caused some struggles. Meanwhile, pretty much every media member or NBA scout who was visited UK in the past four weeks has come away far more impressed by 6-foot-7 wing James Young.
This is not exactly the upset of the century. Young might not have been the No. 3-ranked player in the loaded 2014 class, but he was No. 8. At almost any other program, he'd be the big man on campus; we're not exactly talking (with all due respect) about Jarrod Polson here. Young is tall, athletic and, unlike most such players, possessed of reliable shooting touch. He is an NBA scout's dream.
That's a clip from Kentucky's humdrum exhibition win over Montevallo Monday night, and yes, that's Young racing to the sideline in an attempt to save the ball -- which he does, directly into his own hoop.
There are two ways to look at this. The glass-half-full version is that Young is "so locked in," as one Kentucky radio announcer put it, that he can't help but throw the ball in the net even when he doesn't mean to. The glass-half-empty version is that Young callously and egregiously hurt his own team, and by golly, I just don't know if NBA scouts can trust a player with that much disregard for the entire object of the game.
The less-silly version of this dichotomy is that Young made a great hustle play that he immediately undermined by throwing the ball at his own rim. If there is a teachable moment here, that's probably it. When you save the ball back under your own rim, bad things tend to happen. Just usually not this quickly.
In any case, we now have our first crazy Kentucky highlight of the season. Expect many more to come.