James Young

Freshman guard James Young an early standout for Kentucky

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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.

USC athletic director Pat Haden to step down in June

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LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.

USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.

Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.

The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.

Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.

Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

Columbia guard Maodo Lo, right, steals the ball from Northwestern forward Aaron Falzon, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Evanston, Ill.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.