Young has always had star power
This story appeared in the Orlando edition of the November ESPN RISE Magazine.
Call it a coach's intuition.
When Deaundra "Dee" Young came into the world, Astronaut (Titusville, Fla.) girls' basketball coach Gregg Hostetler knew right away that a star was born.
That kind of claim is easy to make nearly 18 years after the fact, of course, but Hostetler has proof. Hostetler, whose daughter Jenna was born the day before Young, was quoted days later in Florida Today as saying he had his future point guard (Jenna) and center (Dee), and that he wouldn't be retiring until they got through high school.
Young is now a Florida-bound post player ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 48 overall in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100. She averaged 18 points and 13.6 rebounds last year as she, Jenna and the rest of the War Eagles led the program to its third state title -- all three coming in Hostetler's 32 years at the helm.
A great coach, certainly, but a psychic? Not exactly. Hostetler coached Young's mom, Betty Hutchinson, when she was at Astronaut. Hutchinson was one of the best players in program history -- tall, active and aggressive. Dee's father, Stacy Young, played for the War Eagles, too. So when Dee was born at 9.5 pounds and 21.5 inches long, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that she might one day follow in her mother's footsteps.
"I think it started in the emergency room," Hutchinson jokes about when Dee began to display her basketball prowess. Not far from it. Young began attending Hostetler's coaching clinics when she was 9 or 10 and was soon playing in rec leagues. Hostetler coached her seventh-grade team at James Madison Middle School. Hutchinson, meanwhile, worked on ball-handling with her from an early age.
"I just started falling in love with the sport," Young says. "I felt like it was in my genes."
The result is a 6-foot-2 forward/center with a unique set of skills. She can post up from either side, turn to the basket, drop in hook shots, employ spin moves, face up, flash across the lane or spot up from the perimeter.
"She's just a very versatile player," Hostetler says. "If a big person wants to come out and guard her, that's fine because she's going to be a little quicker than most girls her size. I don't think you see that many high school post players at 6-foot-2 that have that kind of versatility."
Unlike her mother, however, Dee isn't an overly vocal or intense player. She is laid-back and shy, and it translates to the court. This is sometimes a source of criticism, even from Hostetler and her own mother.
When Betty comes to the games, family in tow -- Dee's three siblings and stepfather are usually there, too -- Young cringes a little, as much as she loves them. Her mom describes a typical interaction this way:
Ma, you are so embarrassing!
Child, as long as you hear me.
But when it comes to the knock on her aggressiveness, Young isn't hearing it. She may not be slapping the court or banging her head against the hoop like Kevin Garnett, but she gets the job done.
"You don't have to be like that," she says. "You can go after the ball just as hard without being that way. I don't like to come off as cocky."
Which is not to say that Young doesn't get amped up. Last year, the War Eagles lost only twice in the regular season. The first defeat came to Parkway Academy, which went on to win its second consecutive Class 3A state title. The second was at the hands of defending Class 4A champ Bishop Moore, which featured then-senior Florida recruit Jennifer George.
Young played lousy against George and Bishop Moore, getting into foul trouble early on and doing little as Astronaut fell by 12. She was upset with her performance and went back to the tape to see where she went wrong.
When the two teams squared off again in the state championship six weeks later, Young was ready.
"Everybody knew it was going to be a heck of a matchup," says Hostetler. "We were the underdog coming in."
Not at all intimidated, Young scored 22 points with 17 rebounds and a couple crucial blocks on shots by George -- her future Gators frontcourt mate -- as Astronaut prevailed, 52-47.
"She just was hungry and knew it was their time to win state," her mom says. "She was going to do whatever it took to win that championship."
"Winning state, that's the best feeling," adds Young. "It was hard work, very hard throughout the whole season to get where we were, but it was an amazing feeling."
Already heavily recruited, the performance made Young one of the most sought-after post players in the country. All the big names came calling, but Young was pretty sure she wanted to remain in-state. She narrowed her final four to Florida, Florida State, Central Florida and Louisville, and picked the Gators after an official visit in September.
Young was tormented by the decision, not wanting to let anyone down. She cried after breaking the bad news to Florida State head coach Sue Semrau. Ultimately, it came down to distance. In Gainesville, Young will be only about two and a half hours away from her family.
"We can all just go in a van," Hutchinson says.
As embarrassing as her mom's cheering can be ("Really, really annoying; I try to block it out," she says), the truth is, Young wouldn't have it any other way.
Back in Titusville, it'll be hard to fill Young's shoes -- size 15 men's, if you were curious -- at Astronaut after this season. "Once in a while," Hostetler says, "you get a Deaundra that comes along and just raises the bar."
Just as he predicted.
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