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By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun
LEXINGTON — James Young is known as a scorer and has been among the most impressive newcomers in the Kentucky camp.
In his first collegiate exhibition game, Young displayed what the hype from his coach has been all about. The Kentucky freshman guard poured in a game-high 25 points to lead the Blue team to a 99-71 victory over the White team in a scrimmage Tuesday night at Rupp Arena. Although he was productive on offense, Kentucky coach John Calipari was equally impressed by Young’s presence on defense.
“James Young is what he is,” the Kentucky coach said. “That’s what you saw today. What James Young could be is. … forget about just scoring the ball and getting to the rim. He can really defend. He comes up with balls and steals.”
He collected a game-high seven steals and was active on both ends of the court. Since his arrival at Kentucky, Young has put more emphasis on his defense.
“I (wasn’t) a great defensive player in high school,” he said. “Since I have gotten here, coaches have been getting on me about my defense, so I had to step it up a little bit, work extra hard, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Young, a left-hander, made an impression almost immediately, scoring 12 points in the opening half while paired on the same team as Willie Cauley-Stein, Julius Randle, Aaron Harrison and Alex Poythress. He was nearly flawless, connecting on five of six shots from the field, with two of those shots coming behind the arc.
“I’ve always been a shooter growing up,” Young said. “Back when I was in AAU, I would just sit in the corner and shoot. Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve developed my game and I can shoot around the court now.”
Playing against his teammates on the big stage, Young made 11-of-16 shots from the field and drained three of five shots from long range.
The outing wasn’t a surprise to his teammates, including veteran Cauley-Stein.
“James is a sensational scorer,” he said. “He can put the ball in the hoop. What he did tonight was (typical) of what he does in practice, and it carries over (into the games). That’s the most important thing. At least it’s carrying over into (the games).”
Young said the scrimmage wasn’t any different than a typical practice session at the Joe Craft Center. He feels comfortable with the dribble-drive motion offense, which has “opened up my game a lot” and has been a consistent performer behind the scenes.
“Practices are always like that,” Young said. “Practice is always competitive. We have a long way to go still, but I’m just showing everybody what I can do. Everybody just works hard and competes. Nothing is going to change.”
Young admitted he “kinda winded in the second half,” of the scrimmage but enjoyed the experience of playing his first unofficial game at Rupp Arena.
“It was a lot of fun (with it) being the first time out there since (Big Blue) Madness,” he said. “It was a great crowd out there and everything went just fine. I really didn’t focus on the crowd, I just focused on the practice and tried to go hard.”
Young, one of the early surprises during preseason workouts, just “wanted to show that I’ve been working hard.”
“I was just showing everyone I can play,” he said. “It’s just my game, I think I showed everybody what I’m capable of. It’s just the beginning and I’ve got a long way to go.”
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Follow Keith Taylor on twitter at @keithtaylor21.