He's 19, but Young brings motivated mind-set to C's

He's 19, but Young brings motivated mind-set to C's
August 22, 2014, 1:15 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. — For many, the idea of being 19 years old in the NBA is the stuff of fairy tales and wishful, adolescent thinking.

But this is indeed the life of Celtics wingman James Young, who admits he didn't think his ascension to pro-baller status would be this quick.

"I thought it would take a couple more years," Young, who turned 19 last month, told Comcast SportsNet New England. "But I'm blessed to have this opportunity. When I had a chance to enter the [NBA] draft, it was like a dream come true."

And like a number of college basketball's talented teens, Young's decision to enter the draft was fueled by a strong finish in his lone season with the Kentucky Wildcats, who came up short last spring, 60-54, in the national championship game to UConn.

The 6-foot-7 lefty was Kentucky's second-leading scorer with 14.3 points per game, and had 20 points in the Wildcats' loss to the Huskies.

In the UConn loss, Young showcased the silky smooth perimeter shooting skills that made him one of the nation's most sought-after prospects coming out of high school.

He also displayed some explosiveness such as a drive down the middle of the lane for a powerful, one-handed dunk over Huskies big man Amida Brimah in the second half.

It became one of the more memorable plays of the NCAA Tournament and maybe just as important, served as a reminder of Young's immense potential.

His mother Tiplance Vernon, and his grandmother Boby Granberry were in attendance, and their faces will be familiar ones at the TD Garden this season.

Young said both will be making the move to Massachusetts from Rochester, Michigan, to live not too far from Young in his yet-to-be-determined home.

In addition, Young will also benefit from having a pair of former Wildcats (assistant coach Walter McCarty and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo) around who literally know where he's coming from.

Still, like most rookies, Young will have his share of ups and downs, which is why having a strong family support system in place in Boston, is so important.

Having family around will certainly help, but ultimately Young will be judged on how he plays.

And like most players, Young will do whatever he can to find added motivation to elevate his performance on the court.

When he finished third for Mr. Basketball in Michigan despite being a McDonald's All-American, it only increased his desire to make an immediate impact in college.

And then there were the whispers Young said he heard prior to arriving at Kentucky. They alluded to him having a limited role as a freshman.

"That just motivated me to go in with a chip on my shoulder and go to work, and start to play harder than everyone else," said Young who started 39 of Kentucky's 40 games last season. "When I finally got that starting spot, hard work paid off for me."

And it is a similar mind-set he brings to a Celtics team that's extremely deep at the shooting guard position, which will once again find Young having to work his way into a meaningful role in his first season.

In addition to returning shooting guard Avery Bradley, the Celtics also traded for Marcus Thornton and added Evan Turner, who can play multiple perimeter positions as well.

Fellow rookie Marcus Smart will play the point primarily, but it would come as a surprise to no one if he saw some action at shooting guard as well.

Boston also returns shooting guards Chris Johnson and Chris Babb, although each has a non-guaranteed contract, which makes their return this season uncertain.

Regardless of who is on the roster, Young understands his role initially will be as a reserve.

"Coming off the bench, it's going to be great," he said. "I can learn from the veterans. But at the same time, I'm going to go out there and compete to try and get a starting spot."

While that may seem like some far-fetched, wishful thinking on Young's part, it will only serve as added motivation and incentive to play well.

And though he's just 19 years old, we've seen in the past just how far that can take him and the team he plays for.