2010 Gator signee Young looks to start with a bang

Jacksonville Providence's Patric Young works in the low post against P.K. Yonge in the Class 2A Regional Semifinal at P.K. Yonge in Gainesville on Feb. 23.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 17, 2010 at 5:23 p.m.

In a pickup game filled with future Division I players, Florida 2010-11 signee Patric Young was eager to make an impression.

After catching a low-post entry pass, Young buried his wide shoulders into the chest of 7-footer Ugo Okam. Okam's knees buckled. Then, with his pivot foot still planted, Young turned to his left and lofted a right-handed baby hook shot over Okam's outstretched arms for an easy basket.

The play was a microcosm of Young's physical approach to basketball. It's also why Young, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound McDonald's All-American power forward, could add a different dimension to UF's frontcourt.

"You can always be selfish on defense," Young said. "No one is going to complain if you are getting too many rebounds and keep running the floor and that's primarily what I do. So I'm just going to come out there and play a big role and do whatever I can to help the team."

Last week, Young traveled three hours across the state to play in that pickup game outside Orlando at Montverde Academy. Okam, a Harvard signee, was among a group of future Division I players that included Jamail Jones (Marquette), James Bell (Villanova) and Papa Samba Ndao (Boston College) that competed. Young practiced to prepare for the FIBA Under-19 world championships, which will take place June 26-30 in San Antonio, Texas.

From there, Young will begin his Florida career as the first signee in UF's growing 2010 class.

"The one thing he's going to add to our frontcourt, which is going to make our frontcourt better, is he is a very physical, high-energy, likes-contact guy," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "And probably the last couple of years, when we lost (Joakim) Noah and (Al) Horford and even Chris Richard we haven't really had that kind of physicality to our frontcourt. Vernon (Macklin) brought a little more to that. But I think Patric can help take that to a different level."

From baseball to basketball

Young's football-like approach to basketball can be traced to his athletic bloodlines. His father, Robert Young, played three seasons as a tight end in the USFL with the Jacksonville Bulls, Tampa Bay Bandits and Oakland Invaders. Young made the position switch to tight end from center, where he played at Bethune-Cookman College.

"Like Patric, I had good hands," the elder Young said.

When Patric was born, Robert Young and his wife, Bennita came to a compromise. Bennita wanted to name the couple's second child Casey. With their first child, a daughter named Sara, they chose to keep the h off the end of her name for Biblical reasons. So when Robert and Bennita settled on Patric for a name, they chose to withhold the k.

An unusually spelled first name didn't garner as much attention for Patric as his athletic ability. At first, Young starred in baseball, where as a right-handed pitcher he threw harder than his Little League teammates. By his sophomore year of high school, Young could throw 85 miles per hour.

"I thought baseball was going to be my thing," Young said.

But Young had a teen growth spurt, from 6-2 as an eighth-grader to 6-5 as a freshman in high school to 6-8 as a sophomore. His shoe size grew from 13 to 17.

"A lot of changing clothes, a lot of shoes, a lot of struggles," Young said. "My mom didn't like buying all those shoes for me."

In basketball, Robert Young said his son always displayed a physical nature, even when he started playing in elementary school.

"We went to a tournament down in Boynton Beach when he was 9 years old," he said. "Patric wasn't interested in scoring. He was more interested in rebounding, playing defense and blocking shots. He has always had a tough attitude, a confidence about him. It's kind of like that tiger in the tank, always waiting to get out."

By his 16th birthday, Young grew into the part of a brutish big man. Young gave up baseball as a high school sophomore and dedicated himself to basketball year-round.

Young committed to Florida that same year. It was an easy decision. He grew up going to UF football games with his grandparents. As a 6 year old, Young still vividly remembers catching a football in the stands on an extra point at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"The Gators were just in my blood," Young said.

Blossoming big man

Young's stock rose from being ranked among the top-60 high school players in the nation to the high-20s before his senior year at Providence High in Jacksonville. In February, Young was named to the McDonald's All-American game, becoming UF's 14th McDonald's All-American signee under Donovan. Young also led Providence to the Class 2A state championship in his senior year.

"It just lets me know that I'm on the right track and I just need to keep working hard, keep doing the things that I'm doing now," Young said. "God's got a plan for me and everything is looking bright for the future."

Young's statistics from the McDonald's All-American game — seven points, nine rebounds — reflect his commitment to clearing the glass. He tied North Carolina State signee C.J. Leslie for the game-high in rebounds.

"I don't like to get out-rebounded," Young said. "I can tell you that."

Of his ability to rebound, Young says: "It's all effort and a mindset. Just don't let anyone stop you from getting what you want. If you want that ball, you won't let anybody stop you."

For a Florida team that ranked third in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding margin and last in blocked shots last season, Young's willingness to bang could pay quick dividends. Young probably will begin the season coming off the bench, since starting power forward Alex Tyus chose to return for his senior season rather than keep his name in the NBA draft. Tyus will be part of an all-senior UF starting frontcourt that includes center Vernon Macklin and small forward Chandler Parsons.

"I thought that (Tyus returning) was great because we're going to really need him if we want to be a great team next season," Young said. "Him leaving was an opportunity for me to get a bigger role. But I want to try to learn some more from him before he leaves and see if I can pick his brain and get a few things from him first."

Young, who had a 3.6 grade-point average in high school, said he expects to stay at Florida for at least three years. That will allow time to develop his offensive post skills.

"The one thing I've always admired about Patric is he is more focused on doing the things in a game that he can control," Donovan said. "He is more of a guy who wants to impact rebounding, he wants to play hard, he wants to defend, he wants to block shots. He's more into that.

"I think he realizes as he gets older and more mature his offense will continue to grow and develop. But he's a guy that's got a pretty good understanding that there's things he can do physically that he knows he can come into college and do right away. And it may not be him coming in and being a 20-point-per-game scorer."

Young agrees that his offense will probably improve over time. He's working with the same trainer who works out Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, doing strength exercises that mimic post moves. Young's mid-range jumper at the recent pickup game with D-I players was inconsistent, but he showed decent touch around the basket.

"I believe that my offense is pretty good right now," Young said. "I just need to get some opportunities in games and pickups to actually get the ball and use the moves that I have. ... I've been working on ball-handling a lot and finishing at the basket, driving, shooting. So I just think if I have more opportunities I can show my offensive game."

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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