Young's confidence, game rises through preseason

Kentucky Wildcats guard James Young (1) jumps to shoot the ball during the first half of the Blue-White scrimmage at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, October 29, 2013. Photo by Tessa Lighty | Staff

Kentucky Wildcats guard James Young (1) jumps to shoot the ball during the first half of the Blue-White scrimmage at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, October 29, 2013. Photo by Tessa Lighty | Staff

By Nick Gray | Basketball beat writer

ngray@kykernel.com

The scouting report on ESPN’s Recruiting Nation website on freshman guard James Young indicated one weakness ­­– one that his head coach has lamented about past talented Cats.

Calipari’s comparisons for Young included two ex-UK players who rebounded well for their position in college.

“I told James yesterday ‘From what I see, he’s got to be DeAndre Liggins and Michael Kidd-(Gilchrist),’” Calipari said before last Friday’s game. “What did those two do for us? They defend. Who do they defend? The best player.”

In the ESPN scouting report, Young’s one criticism was not giving effort for complete games, especially on defense.

The scouting report praised Young’s exceptional athleticism in high school, but noted, “that can change as players get older, bigger and stronger.”

After last Friday’s exhibition against Transylvania University, UK head coach John Calipari was frustrated with several of his players’ effort throughout the game.

He did mention one player who stood out in that department.

“I got one guy that’s being active. So by telling them not to get your hands and do all that, some of the guys are using that to say, I can’t get up there and play,” Calipari said. “Well, James is.”

Young was the fifth-highest ranked UK recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals, but his confidence has never wavered, even as praise from NBA scouts and his coach have showered him over the preseason.

“I had a lot of confidence, but I guess it’s just growing even more,” Young said. “I can play with these guys, too, and people are finally noticing that.”

In the two exhibition games, Young played the third-most minutes total as Calipari has subbed in players frequently in the lineup, trying to find his best pairings.

Young’s effort even led one of his highlights showing up on NBC and SportsCenter.

His behind-the-back save of a loose ball into Montevallo’s basket in UK’s exhibition game Monday night was on social media and YouTube, along with non-sports shows such as the Today Show.

“It’s a great teaching lesson to tell them don’t ever throw it back at your basket,” Calipari said after the game. “When you’re coaching this many young guys, it made me laugh.”

Going along with the scouting report on Young’s strength and athletic ability, the 6-foot-6-inch guard grabbed five rebounds in each of the exhibition games, albeit against smaller competition (neither team had players above 6 feet 8 inches).

Young shed off any comparisons to past players.

“I’m just trying to be a team leader,” Young said. “I am just trying to be me.”

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