Catching Up With Pat Young
Pat Young, a member of the 2010 USA U18 National Team that compiled a 5-0 record, captured the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship gold medal and qualified the U.S. for the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship, is 10 games into his rookie year at the University of Florida. The Jacksonville, Fla., native, who started all five games and averaged 6.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per outing for the U.S. squad last summer, is adjusting to the rigors of college life Ė both in the class and on the court.
Being on a squad of 18-and-unders that was coached by University of Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel, Young and his teammates got an early dose of what to expect in college practices. Capel, along with his assistant coaches, Georgia Techís Paul Hewitt and University at Buffaloís Reggie Witherspoon, taught fundamentals, worked on defense, shooting, setting screens and other basics for their squad. Everyone, including Young, said that at the time the USAís practices were the toughest they had ever been through.
Young admits that itís not been an easy adjustment. In high school, the 6-9, 245-pounder was bigger than most of his opponents and had a relatively easy time getting to the basket. Now that heís playing against guys who are just as good or better, just as big or bigger, Young has had to work harder to do what once came easily.
He is currently averaging 2.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in fewer than 15 minutes an outing for the 8-2 Gators. However, because heís one of those players who wants to learn, who listens to his coaches and works as hard as possible on improving, it shouldnít be long before heís powering through collegiate opponents like he once did at the high school level.
USABasketball.com caught up with Young recently over the phone to find out how his first semester is going, how tough it's been to adjust to college life and other topics.
What has your first season of college basketball been like so far?
Itís been tough adjusting, but I see it as an opportunity where Iím getting to learn a lot more from my coaches. Iím trying to be a sponge this year so I can get better and help my teammates get better. But it hasnít been a walk in the park. It hasnít been easy or anything like that at all. Itís been very challenging.
Whatís the toughest adjustment youíve had to make?
I canít power through everybody like I did in high school or like I did with the USA team, where I outsized everybody and was able to muscle my way through. Iíve had to be like a sponge and listen to people, take in what the coaches are telling me, actually listen and learn from them. It has made me a better player.
How does it differ from all the other basketball youíve played?
Itís harder. The speed of the game is faster. You feel like there are 10 things going on at one time. Youíre getting screened from the side, from the back. You have to talk, you canít just Ö you have to come ready to play every game.
How did playing for coach Jeff Capel get you prepared for playing at this level?
I think it really prepared me because all of the stuff that they taught us there was very similar concepts to what coach Donovan is teaching us. He asks us pretty much the same things, as well as being disciplined, you have to listen to everything heís telling you. Because he wants to help you become a better player and get you to wherever you want to be in the end, to help get your career to the highest level.
What did you learn from playing for college coaches for three weeks?
I remember coach Capel always talking about the help defense, always being on the white line. Coach Hewitt always telling us you got to get out of the habit of ball watching. You have to be active. You canít just watch the plays. And being in the stance and always talking on defense. Those are some of the same concepts that coach Donovan has been teaching us here as well.
What are some of your best memories of the USA Basketball U18 National Team- both on and off the court?
Winning the gold, that was one of the best memories on the court. I remember the time I spun-moved off Quincy Miller and dunked it.
Off the court, there were so many good times I had with those guys. I canít just put it into one moment. Vander Blue, Kyrie (Irving), Austin (Rivers), those guys were all great.
Do you still keep in touch with your teammates?
I do. I still keep in contact with Vander and Kyrie a lot. Mostly on Twitter.
Brad Beal, who won two gold medals on USA Basketball teams so far, is coming to Florida next year.† What do you know about Brad?
I know heís a great kid. He really wants to get better. Heís a winner, thatís for sure. Heíll do whatever it takes to win. Heís probably one of the best shooters Iíve ever seen in my life. Heís a really smart player for such a young age.
What are some of your favorite classes?
None. (laughs) Just kidding! My English and my pre-calculus classes are my favorite. I do well in those two subjects.
What do you like most about being at college?
Iím learning how to be a man. Iím on my own out here, making decisions. I finally realized that my parents prepared me to discipline my life very well. Iím enjoying it, Iím making pretty good decisions.
Has your family fired up the RV and come to all of your home games?
They havenít taken the RV yet, but theyíve been coming to see me play. All the home games.
Did you follow the USA Menís World Championship Team this summer?
A little bit. I saw that Kevin Durant was going off over there.
Did you feel more connected to that team, having won a gold medal for your country?
Yeah, I did actually. Especially since on every age level weíre undefeated. I felt great that we were able to keep that up with everyone going out and winning a gold medal.
Finally, would you come back and play for USA Basketball again?
I definitely will do that, as long as my teammates will agree to do the same. I will come back and do it again. And as long as (athletic trainer) David Craig comes back, too!