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.