“When the lights were on, I just performed and that really helped me,” said Young, who averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 rebounds as a freshman at Kentucky.
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Young eager to take his shot at the next level

By Adam Fluck | 06.24.2014 

James Young and the Kentucky Wildcats started out the 2013-14 campaign at No. 1, but they struggled at times throughout the course of the year and lost four out of their last seven regular season games. 

They were awarded the eighth seed in the NCAA Tournament, a tough draw for a team that once carried such high expectations. The Wildcats, however, were up for the challenge. 

They got past Kansas State in their opening game, then handed top-seeded Wichita State its first loss of the season to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Kentucky knocked off three more formidable opponents, including Wisconsin in the Final Four behind a team-high 17 points from Young. 

Though Kentucky eventually fell in the championship game to Connecticut, Young impressed again with a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds. 

“When the lights were on, I just performed and that really helped me,” said Young, who was named to the Final Four NCAA All-Tournament team, at last month’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. 

It was that remarkable stretch which ultimately may have made the difference for Young when it came time to make a decision on his future. 

“That’s a tough question,” Young said when asked if he would have gone pro had Kentucky lost in the first round. “After the run, it definitely took me awhile to think about if I was should come back or not. The guys were all talking about going back for another year but it depended [on their success in the tournament]. If we hadn’t gone on that run, probably not. I probably would have stayed another year with everybody.” 

Young, a 6-7, 213-pound shooting guard/small forward, averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while appearing in all 40 games and making 39 starts as a freshman. 

The Rochester Hills, Michigan native won’t turn 19 until August 16, making him one of the youngest players in the draft.

“Mature as a player,” said Young, who has modeled his game after Tracy McGrady’s, when asked about his focus this summer. “I definitely want to get my footwork a lot better. And I’m working on my ball handling skills. Really just getting better and stronger.” 

Young said he’s most comfortable at shooting guard as that is where he has played the most. But Kentucky had such a talented group, Wildcats coach John Calipari decided to move him to small forward to take advantage of his size and accommodate the best lineup. 

Shooting and scoring are among Young’s strongest assets, which is why he’s confident he could be a good fit for the Bulls should they decide to select him. 

“I feel like I really could fit in,” said Young of the Bulls. “They have a lot of good defenders. A lot of defense can lead to a lot of offense. When it comes to the offense, I’ll be a great part of helping a team score. Derrick [Rose] has a lot of attention towards him so when he needs to kick it out and create a shot, I’d be there for him all the time.” 

Regardless of where he ends up, Young feels his game is suited to the fast-paced nature at the next level. 

“Transition-wise, just getting up and down in the NBA, that’s my game,” said Young, who appeared in both the McDonald's High School All-America and Jordan Brand Classic games. “They come off more ball screens too so I feel like I’d be able to get open shots. UK prepared me for that. We did a lot of transition stuff and they got me off a lot of screens. I feel like that will happen in the NBA too.” 

Though it wasn’t an easy decision for Young to leave Lexington after just one season, he’s optimistic that it was the right one. 

“This has always been my dream going up. I’ve got a chance to fulfil my dream,” said Young. “I’ve worked really hard to get here and I know it’s going to be tough in the NBA. But it’s a process and I’m just trying to take it all on.” 

Bulls.com was in attendance at the NBA Draft Combine May 15-16 in Chicago. This is the eighth and final in a series of looks at some of the projected first round picks. The Bulls currently own three selections in this summer’s June 26 draft—16th, 19th and 49th. 

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