The Kentucky Wildcats will have five top 10 recruits from the 2013 class on their roster next year. We have covered four of them already, Julius Randle, Andew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and Dakari Johnson. The last one remaining, is James Young.
Young is fom Troy, MI and played his high school basketball at Rochester High school, a public school in Rochester Hills, MI. These days, it is not often that a player will stay a public school instead of attending a prep school that focuses on basketball, but that is the decision Young made.
As it turns out, it was a perfectly fine decision as he stood out over his high school career and was noticed by several big time NCAA programs. Young was ranked 9th in composite rankings, which is an amalgamation of all the big recruiting lists, and as offered scholarships by many schools. Ultimately, he chose Kentucky over Syracuse, Kansas and Michigan State, who were hoping the in state aspect would work in their favor.
This is a video of highlights from his days as a high schooler.
Physically, Young has been gifted with a great basketball body. He stands at 6″6, has a good bulky frame and a really long wingspan at 6″11. As well, he is naturally left handed which for a basketball player, is like being born with a built in advantage. Especially at the college level where the scouting on other teams is less than what happens at the NBA level.
Offensively Young’s best asset is his great ability at getting to the rim. He uses his dribbling skills quite well and he has good footwork that allows him to get to the spots he wants to go. Once he gets to the rim, he is great at finishing. Young excels at putting the ball up while facing defensive pressure. His lay ins often look kind of weird and he has a strange looking form but it works for him. When he decides to pop up for a shot off the dribble instead of attacking the rim, he elevates quite well off the floor and is great at hitting his shot in motion.
As a shooter, his form is also a bit low and weird but he releases extremely quickly. Young is also good at shooting with a hand in his face and does not seem to be bothered by his defender attempting to close out on his shot. Young’s range extends beyond the three point line which is important because wing players need to have that tool to be an effective scorer at the NCAA and NBA level.
In transition, he is an excellent passer and is very willing to make the pass. Young is unselfish and plays with a great motor which shows in his willingness to run in transition and his constant attacking of the boards, both offensively and defensively. This makes Young a terrific rebounder for his position because he is not afraid of contact and will stop at nothing to get to the loose ball first.
Defensively, he has a tremendous potential out on the perimeter, he is long, has great footwork and speed and is a smart basketball player. With a little bit of coaching defensively, he could be one of the best ball stoppers in the nation. This is especially due to the fact that he can reach in for passes without gambling too much because his arms are so long.
Young is still fairly raw as an overall basketball talent. He has been playing, generally against weaker competition than most of his pears and that shows when he plays with people of his skill level. The lack of experience makes it a bit difficult for him to show how good he is at times. That should start to fade away as he gets more and more runs in with the current Kentucky crew and as he plays more games at the NCAA level. Young’s lack of experience might also be why he looks comfortable playing second fiddle at times which is not what you want from a top 10 recruit.
Though he has a great basketball body, Young is not an athletic specimen. He doesn’t explode off the floor and he doesn’t have the elite athleticism of a wingman like an Andre Iguodala. Young will have to really focus on having top notch fundamentals to be able to keep up with the best athletes in the NCAA or the NBA, who often play the same positions that Young does.
Speaking of position, it is unclear whether Young is a shooting guard or a small forward. While that is not nearly as important as deciding whether a player is a point guard or a shooting guard or a small forward or a power forward, it would be good to figure it out. If he is a guard, he will have to focus more on his perimeter defense, which as mentioned is already excellent but if he is a small forward, extra attention should go to rebounding, which he also does quite well.
What to expect at Kentucky:
Odds are that Young will be coming off the bench when he arrives at Kentucky. The Wildcats have Alex Poythress returning, who should have a starting spot locked up at the 3, and Aaron Harrison is probably currently more polished and ready to be a starter at the 2. Not starting would probably be best for Young anyways as he is probably the least NCAA ready of Kentucky’s five top 10 recruits.
Off the bench, Young will be comfortable knowing he is not the one expected to lead the team to victory and will be able to focus on providing an offensive boost coming into the game and playing great defense. His shooting and decision making should improve as the season rolls along and he will also gain confidence in his own game in time. That will allow Young to start taking more chances, knowing what he is capable of doing.
It is likely that Young will not be a one and done player and that he will return for at the very least, a second season with the Wildcats. Given time, Young could be one of Kentucky’s best players ever because the tools are all there to be a two way basketball star, all he needs is some time and coaching, which Kentucky will be able to give him.