Young's stock soaring at Middle TennesseeDecember 23, 2005 · MT Media Relations
Years of investing for the future are paying dividends for Young and the Blue Raiders.
The former Marshall County High School standout, in his fourth season at Middle Tennessee after an injury forced him to take a redshirt in 2002-03, knew 2005-06 needed to be his breakout campaign and Young is delivering at a career-best pace.
His stock has exploded.
The 6-foot-10 Young is enjoying a significant return for the three-plus years of dedication and work ethic he has demonstrated at Middle Tennessee, where he is a three-year starter, honor student and team co-captain.
Young established career highs for points (19), field goals (9), and field goal attempts (13) in an 87-75 win at Belmont, Dec. 10, to continue what has been a strong start to his junior campaign. Two games later, Young bagged his third career double double - and second of the season - with a solid 12-point, 10-rebound performance against No. 10 Louisville.
It's a start that has helped Middle Tennessee to a 6-3 mark at the holiday break and one that has enabled Young to establish himself as more than a role player. He is becoming a focal point of the Blue Raider offense.
"It was personally important to have a good start because if I came in and didn't have a good year knowing we need so much more out of me and being a co-captain, which means you are supposed to be a leader, that would be disappointing," Young said. "Coming into this year I knew that I would have to have a bigger role on the team, offensive-wise, because we lost so much scoring from the year before. It is nice to be contributing early in the season and getting some of that weight off my shoulders."
Young is averaging 11 points - almost three times his 4.1 career scoring average - and his 70 percent field goal shooting (41-of-59) leads the Sun Belt Conference and is fourth nationally. He also leads the Blue Raiders in rebounding at 6.3 per game, also higher than his career average of 4.1 per game coming into the season. He had six double-figure scoring games in two previous seasons, but already has five in eight games this year.
"I expect even more out of Kyle," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. "He's got as much experience as anyone in our league at his spot. He leads our league in field goal percentage right now and we have to do a better job of getting him the ball more. He's making (70 percent) of his shots so he's got to be a more focal point. He's got to know his role and then assume that role."
Young, who will earn his undergraduate degree in May and then begin working on his Master's, has put 30 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame since first arriving at Middle Tennessee and is currently playing at 208 pounds. Increased strength and size has enabled Young to consistently develop into a legitimate inside force, but Davis says the budding star is only a few pounds shy of being one of the best players in the Sun Belt.
"Kyle's whole thing is strength and weight," Davis said. "He's at about 208 now and at one point he got up to 215. If he's 225 I would say there's no question he's a first-team, all-league player or second team, but it's just his strength level. He's worked hard and he's gotten stronger. If he can get to where he can take contact and some of the pushing and shoving, that's really all he lacks."
Just as Young has seen his all-around game improve, he has been part of something no Blue Raider has in many years - three straight winning seasons. And if the Blue Raiders can register a winning campaign in 2005-06, Young will be the first Middle Tennessee player since the 1986-89 seasons to enjoy such a run.
Young says it's been exciting to be part of seeing fans getting excited about basketball at Middle Tennessee. Two years prior to Young's signing and Davis' arrival at Middle Tennessee, the Blue Raiders had endured a five-win campaign.
"It's definitely been exciting," Young said. "Every year we have become better and the attendance has been improving. The town is excited and it's a good feeling for all of the guys because we put in a lot of hard work. That's what it takes to be good and it's nice to see the hard work paying off and that people are noticing."
The only Blue Raider who has been on the squad in each of Davis' first four seasons, Young earned the title of co-captain with senior Fats Cuyler for this season. Young says much of the responsibility comes from longevity and knowing what Davis expects; however, those who realize what the personable and well-liked Young is about know his leadership ability has earned him lofty status among his teammates.
"Kyle is a very solid person," Cuyler said. "He is an easy person to respect in all areas because he takes care of his business in the classroom and he brings it in practice every day. He doesn't take plays off and he works hard all the time. He's a good teammate."
Young is not only solid in the classroom, but he is also regularly involved in community service functions and reading programs. The responsibility that comes with being viewed as a leader is not something he takes lightly.
"It definitely is an honor to be counted on and be seen as a leader," Young said. "It's a responsibility you don't take lightly and I try to make sure I am always accountable for my actions and to this basketball team. I have been here the longest of anyone and I know what coach Davis expects. I have tried to pass that along to the incoming players."
Young not only is succeeding in his leadership skills and being part of helping bring along nine newcomers, but he's helping shoulder the load on the court, as well, as he is playing with tremendous confidence and enjoying the breakout season that was destined to become reality.
Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.
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