It would be hard to argue that any player in the history of Florida Gators basketball was as physically gifted out of the gate as center Patric Young was when he stomped his way into Gainesville, FL three years ago. Now entering his junior season with the Gators, Young knows it is time for him to combine his natural physical gifts with his increased basketball acumen and a newly-found focus in order to break out and lead the charge for Florida towards the promised land of a third national title.
“I think this year I’m going to be the main leader on the team,” Young said Wednesday, according to the Florida Times-Union. “It’s something that everyone tells me they see in me. I see it within myself. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about. I think God has been preparing me for my whole life to be a real leader.”
Young’s size and strength have never been questioned by head coach Billy Donovan or the Gators’ coaching staff and neither has his dedication to improve his game and become a complete basketball player. Where concerns have arisen about Young is in regards to his stamina and ability to perform consistently well while sustaining a high level of intensity. It is in that way that Young can step up not only as an individual but also as a player who leads by example and not just through words.
Donovan criticized Young often throughout his sophomore season for failing to maintain his energy and intensity. Young experienced tendonitis early in the season and dealt with it throughout the year, but Donovan felt that was nothing that should have limited him as severely as it did, especially early on in the campaign.
Read the rest of this story on Patric Young…after the break!
“I think Patric a year ago – and I made this comment with Erik [Murphy] moving into the starting lineup and with Patric moving into the starting lineup – I think both players were embarking on a situation they never had experienced before,” he said. “I think Patric really learned a lot. He learned a lot about his conditioning, about how hard it was for him to sustain intensity for a long period of time. I think sometimes his conditioning put him in a situation where he got in foul trouble. I think also mentally dealing with tendonitis and the bumps and bruises of playing more minutes.
“[A player has to have] the ability to be able to come back to practice the next day when you don’t feel good, when you’re run down and when you’re tired, being able to come back and do it day after day after day. I think those were all new challenges that he faced that maybe caused him to go through some growing pains, so to speak, of being a guy now that moved into the starting lineup. Patric played 26.5 minutes a game roughly last year and probably could’ve been in a position to play more but, because of some of the things I mentioned, it probably held him back from doing that.
“Going through what he went through last year, I think he realizes the importance of being in great shape. I think he realizes the importance of playing with a sustained level of intensity. I think he realizes that when he doesn’t do those things, he puts himself in a position where he picks up fouls, where he could be on the bench early in the game. And I think for Patric, just handling the adversity [is important].”
Though Donovan does not necessarily fault Young for having those issues a year ago, noting that not playing much as a freshman was a situation that could not have “prepared him for what he went through and what he experienced,” he does expect a vast improvement from Young in this area now that he has experience as a starter.
“The biggest thing for Patric in all this stuff is mentally being in the right place to be able to deal with the confrontation every day of pushing himself to go to the next step physically,” he said. “I think if you look at any frontcourt that we’ve had here that’s been really effective, they’ve had a great ability to endure physical conditioning and they’ve been able to play through fatigue.
“I think from a maturity standpoint, that’s an area where Patric has got to get better. I also think the fact of him mentally maturing in terms of taking on that challenge when you get tired because so much of when you get tired and fatigued is how do you respond to yourself internally. [Can you break through the threshold?] He’s worked very, very hard this summer.”
Young’s summer journey was actually a bit tougher than he first expected as it was reported recently that he was struck with mono and missed nearly three full weeks of workouts and practice while going through the first few stages of recovery. He has since been able to return to the team and is now a full-go in practices.
“We had our last conditioning test on Tuesday, and he passed it. I would say, a year ago, him coming off of mono, he would have never had a chance to pass it. I’ve seen some growth from him in that area,” Donovan said.
A lot will fall on Young’s more-than-capable shoulders this season. He is the team’s returning leading rebounder (6.4 per game) from a year ago and is unquestionably Florida’s best post presence game-in and game-out. Averaging 10.2 points a contest but only playing the fourth-most minutes per game last season, Young will be counted on now more than ever to step up all areas of his game and become the dominant force that he, scouts, the coaching staff and his teammates all believe that he can be.
Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press