Kevin Young, a year later, is a key for Kansas basketball
- Dec. 21, 2012
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There was a time when Kevin Young averaged just seven minutes per game in a Kansas uniform.
It might be hard to remember, since it’s nearly impossible not to imagine the chiseled Afro flying through the air for emphatic dunks and rebounds, but Young struggled to get acclimated to the Jayhawks offense after transferring from Loyola-Marymount last year.
It also might be hard to remember because this was early in the 2011-12 season. Back before Thomas Robinson started playing like the National Player of the Year, before Withey’s blocks became a phenomenon to be reckoned with and before Tyshawn Taylor learned to stop turning the ball over.
Let’s face it, life for last year’s National Runner-ups really began on a cold Saturday afternoon in December when the Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State Buckeyes came to Lawrence and fell to the energized Jayhawks.
It was the first time Kansas played with the explosiveness and physicality that defined last year.
It was also, by no coincidence, the first time Kevin Young saw extended playing time.
“I remember him hitting two threes,” Center Jeff Withey said of Young. “Kevin can do that almost every night.”
Indeed, Young did knock down two of three shots from behind the arc, en route to 14 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes — triple the amount of time he had been getting.
Yet Young didn’t enter last year’s matchup with Ohio State trying to shoot 75 percent from the field — which he did. Instead, he was trying to set screens to get his teammates open looks. It just so happened that after he did Young was usually left wide open.
“That was the first game Kevin really made shots,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He was a good matchup for us because he was the best slider defensively. He was a good fit.”
Young guarded OSU’s Deshaun Thomas last year and he’ll be doing so again. The only difference is that now Young is a starter and his relentlessness makes the Energizer Bunny look winded.
“He’s going to be huge for us,” Withey said. “He’s going to be guarding their best player. We need him to put pressure on the other guy and get him in foul trouble and just be annoying on defense. He can do that.”
Before the Buckeyes, Young was underachieving with 3.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He finished the season doubling both of those totals and connecting on more than 50 percent of his shots.
Whenever Self called Young off the bench it provided a shot of adrenaline to the arm of the Jayhawks. But it wasn’t until Ohio State that the medicine started working.
The Jayhawks may have been dominant through most of non-conference play, but like last year it may as well have been preseason.
Memories are made by the Buckeyes and beyond.
“Our season really starts Saturday,” Self said.