It’s not often that the case can be made for a McDonald’s All-American being an overlooked player during the preseason. Only 24 high school players receive that honor in the spring of their senior season, and for the most part they all receive a great amount of attention due to the fact that they’re expected to have an immediate impact.
But in the case of Kentucky freshman wing James Young, it can be argued that the chatter surrounding his arrival in Lexington was a bit subdued when compared to some of his fellow freshmen. Twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison arrived on campus amid much fanfare, with Andrew expected to take over at point guard after the Wildcats struggled at the position last season. And then there’s forward Julius Randle, a 6-foot-10 phenom whose skill level could make him one of the toughest match-ups in the country.
In total the Wildcats add six McDonald’s All-Americans this season, with Young being one of those players (Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee complete the group). And according to head coach John Calipari, observers have left Kentucky practices impressed with the 6-foot-6 guard from Rochester Hills, Mich.
“Everybody that comes in our building, the guy that they’re saying is the standout is James Young. Every day. We’ve had NBA scouts in there every day and they’re saying it every day.”
What makes Young so special? “He is really fast,” Calipari said. “He’s now not settling for jump shots, so you’re seeing a young man get his head and shoulders by people, take contact and make baskets … if he’s ahead, you throw him the ball and something good will happen. And he has a chance to be a terrific defender.”
As a senior Young posted averages of 27.2 points, 16.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game on a team that finished the season with a 21-5 record and reached the quarterfinals of the Michigan Class A state tournament. It’s clear that Young, whose grassroots team (The Family) included guards Wes Clark (Missouri) and E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island), is an incredibly talented player. But it can be argued that prior to Calipari’s words on Tuesday that Young was being overlooked by some.
Young’s had a good start to his freshman campaign, and it also helps Kentucky that two of their returnees (Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress) are back practicing after missing time due to injury. Kentucky’s lack of depth did them in in 2012-13, as the young Wildcats were essentially forced to figure things out on the fly with mixed results. Depth shouldn’t be a concern this season, and that should have Kentucky basketball back to the level its fans expect.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.