Not So Young: Transfer Gains Ground

Jan. 3, 2012

Written by Emma Cornish, Kansas media relations student assistant

LAWRENCE, Kan. For a student-athlete that has spent most of his life in California, junior transfer Kevin Young noticed a few major differences between Kansas and his home state since arriving in Lawrence.

“There’s a lot of sun (in California) which is nice,” Young said. “It’s a lot different from Kansas, a bit faster paced. Everybody is always moving, always in a rush trying to get somewhere.”

Young, who transferred from Loyola Marymount to the University of Kansas after two seasons, hopes to bring that fast-paced attitude into the Jayhawk rotation, providing a spark for the team.

“I’m an energy guy,” the Perris, Calif., product said. “I’m just giving all I can when I get in. I will help the team any way I can, whether it’s playing defense, rebounding or just running the floor to get my teammates open. I’m willing to do that.”

Young, averaging 3.8 points so far this year, has been channeling that energy into basketball since the age of seven, when he began playing organized ball. It wasn’t until his freshman year of high school, though, that he realized his potential for playing at the next level.

Loyola Marymount soon came knocking, recruiting the star out of Perris High School for its program. Young looks back on his time with the Lions as a “fun learning experience.”

“I was very fortunate in being able to play a lot and get on the floor,” Young said. “I played like 38 or 40 minutes per game both my freshman and sophomore year, and it just gave me experience and confidence.”

Young wasted no time making LMU history, demolishing the all-time freshman record for rebounds and rebounds per game with 224 rebounds during the 2008-09 season, good for 7.2 per game. Although they were amazing individual accomplishments, the 6’8″ forward didn’t pause to celebrate. Instead, he concerned himself with helping his team win.

“We were losing the game already and the coach on the sideline called a timeout,” Young recalled. “The assistant coach came up to me and said `You know you just broke the rebounding record for a freshman in a single game?’ It didn’t register at first because I didn’t care about the record. I just wanted to win the game. That was more important to me at the time and that’s still what I care about.”

When he found out about breaking the rebounds-per game record after the season ended, Young allowed a little time to let the historic moment soak in.

“They told me (at the end of the season) and I was very happy that I got to be a part of that history,” Young said. “Just being able to be put in the record books with Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble and all of those guys is a very great honor.”

While at Loyola, the forward got the unique opportunity to play for the Puerto Rican U19 Team at the 2009 U19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand. Young, whose mother is Puerto Rican, helped the team that finished dead last the tournament before finish in sixth place with a 5-4 record, a five-win improvement from the year prior. He averaged 7.7 points in 23 minutes per game in what he called “a great experience.”

“I got to bond a lot with my teammates while I was there,” Young said. “It helped me to better pick my shots on the court. For example, I didn’t take as many wild shots as I did my freshman year. I learned how to play as more of a role player and do what the team needed me to do in order to win.”

Now at Kansas, Young has worked to get back in elite condition after his mandatory year off due to NCAA transfer rules. And he’s had to learn quickly, going against the likes of junior Thomas Robinson, a preseason All-American candidate, in practice every day.

“It’s definitely made me tougher,” Young said with a smile. “I’ve taken a couple of elbows, but overall it’s made me realize that every day I just have to get better. I’m just getting back on track mentally and physically for the sport as well as getting conditioned. Taking a year off put me back farther than what I had expected to be.”

In his first official game donning a Kansas jersey, Young racked up an impressive line in just 14 minutes, contributing 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals in KU’s 100-54 rout of Towson on Nov. 11. His performance also included two crowd-pleasing dunks that Young described to media after the game as simply “fly.” With a debut performance like that, it seems implausible the Californian was feeling nervous, but Young was anxious for his introduction to the Phog.

“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Young conceded. “It’s a great experience just to be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play there (Allen Fieldhouse). Just to walk onto the court is an honor.”

KU head coach Bill Self was complimentary after that performance, calling Young “aggressive” and the “best rebounder of the night.”

Young is quick to credit Self for his improvements so far. He wants to soak up as much from the talented basketball mind as he can in his two years left in the college ranks.

“He’s a mentor and a teacher of the game,” Young said. “I try to take as much as I can from that and learn as much as I can while I have the opportunity.”

Just as he has his whole career, Young hopes to channel that fast-paced California energy into team-oriented goals, shifting the focus from himself and onto his hopes for the Jayhawks this season.

“I really don’t have any individual goals,” Young explained. “It’s more of a team thing for me. I have a feeling that we can get pretty far if we just come together a little bit more.”