By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky basketball fans did not get to see the “real” James Young during the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago last week.
The UK signee had six points on 3-for-6 shooting from the field in 16 minutes of play, but the 6-6 wing player from Michigan says there is a lot more to his game than what he was able to show in that game.
“Kentucky fans didn’t get to see the real James Young,” he said. “They got a lot coming next year that they haven’t seen. They will see the real me then.”
Young finished his senior year averaging 27.2 points, 16 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 5.1 steals and 2.1 blocks per game. He was named the Associated Press Class A Player of the Year and helped carry Rochester to its first region title since 1950.
“The Kentucky fans didn’t get to see a whole lot of scoring. Once I am 100 percent again, they will see it,” Young, who injured his hip during the all-star game practice, said. “There is way more to come.”
He’ll be playing in the Jordan Brand Classic Saturday night in Brooklyn along with five other former Wildcats — Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Julius Randle and Andrew Harrison — again.
“Oh my God. I loved this week,” Young said of the bonding time in Chicago with his future teammates. “I have never experienced anything like it. It is amazing to get close with all these guys. It helps a lot. We have built chemistry off the court and that will be real big next year.
“We all have a great chemistry with each other. We laugh a lot, we talk a lot. We are all like the same person basically, so it is a great thing now and will be even greater next year.”
Young knows those players will push him to improve.
“Get my hops up, get my defense better and I can score more. During the offseason I can get better. You can never be the best, so why not get better,” Young said. “You have to work. Work is going to get you a lot better. I love grinding. I love working out with my trainer. It’s a good thing. If you don’t work next year, you may not play. So I am going to work even more next year
“Kentucky has always been my dream school growing up. I’ve seen all the great history they’ve had. It’s a great atmosphere, a great college campus. The coaches are awesome. So why would you not want to work to be the best you can be there.”
If that’s not enough reason, he has motivation from his family. His mother, grandmother and godfather all accompanied him to Chicago and have all had instrumental roles in his life and basketball career.
“My grandmother means so much in my life. She has always been there for me. She has always took care of me and always been there when I needed her,” he said. “It means a lot having her with me. But they all show their love all the time. They were always with me. They come to every game and I love them for it. It will be the same at Kentucky. I couldn’t make it without them or live without them. They always look out for me, take care of me. They give me great advice on what to do in life.”
His high school coach, John Pleasant, said Young ended his regular season “on a good note” after a calf injury hampered him late in the season and forced him to miss games.
“He led us to our first district championship in 25 years and he just took the game over from the get-go. We won our first regional championship in 50 years. The game was close and then he scored the first 14 points in the fourth quarter to put it away,” Pleasant, who was in Chicago to watch him play, said. “He did so much for our program. In our quarterfinal loss (in the state), he only had 18 points and didn’t shoot well but there were 7,000 people there and I think they were all guarding him. Or it seemed like that. He took tough shots we had to have him take.”
Young finished third in the Mr. Basketball voting in Michigan behind winner Monte Morris, an Iowa State signee, and Michigan signee Derrick Walton Jr. Morris had 2,130 points in the voting while Walton had 2,086 and Young 2,030.
“All the voting was done before the playoffs started and James missed the last five games. But don’t let the voting fool you. He was by far the best player in the state and the only one named a McDonald’s All-American,” Pleasant said. “I am not a sore loser, but I could have told you this would happen when he signed with Kentucky. But it is not even close as to who is the best player.”