Jack Arent/NBAE/Getty Images

‘Wrecking ball’ Patric Young dominates boards in debut

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

LAS VEGAS – “Mine!”

Amid the relative quiet of a Thomas & Mack Center that had emptied out after a long day of basketball, New Orleans Pelicans rookie Patric Young made it audibly evident Friday that yet another ball caroming off the rim was his. It was the 6-foot-9, 240-pounder’s way of vocally claiming his territory in the paint, over and over again.

In his first-ever game as a professional, the undrafted Young turned in one of his finest rebounding performances, grabbing 13 boards in just 19 minutes. The University of Florida product’s high game in college was 14 rebounds, over a four-year Gators career.

Young’s boardwork and muscle in the paint – he also chipped in 11 key points in his reserve role – sparked New Orleans to a dramatic, 83-81 comeback victory over the D-League Select team.

“Great energy,” Pelicans veteran forward Josh Howard praised of Young. “He’s pretty much a wrecking ball out there. He’s on the ground (diving for loose balls and hustling) more than me, almost. To have that energy coming off the bench… to come in and contribute, that’s what we need.”

“He’s a beast,” Pelicans guard Russ Smith said. “Typical Pat Young. I’m just happy he came through. He definitely helped us on the glass and gave us toughness in the paint.”

Young matched his 2013-14 scoring average at Florida of 11.0 by dropping in a pair of crafty hook shots on the baseline, as well as scoring on two putbacks. His athletic, follow-up layup in the fourth quarter after a teammate’s fast-break miss was a key play that ignited New Orleans’ game-closing 21-2 surge. It was one of his game-high six offensive rebounds.

“I thought he was great. He was one of more consistent guys,” Pelicans summer head coach Bryan Gates said. “He really held the defensive boards down for us. He had a nice post move when we were struggling to score. I thought his energy was great.”

Young almost immediately put his imprint on the game after checking in as a first-quarter sub. He kept up a rebound-per-minute pace for much of the opening half, eventually helping the Pelicans claim a 45-33 overall rebounding advantage vs. the D-League.

“It’s the way I definitely wanted to start off my pro career, being a guy that’s going to go out, play hard, rebound every night,” Young said. “From Day 1, ever since I knew I was going to be playing summer league with the Pelicans, they were telling me to focus on rebounding. So going into the game, that’s all I was focused on, going out there playing hard, going after every board.”

Young entered summer league knowing that he needs to play well to improve his chances to make an NBA roster in the fall. He said his four-year career at Florida and the instruction of longtime head coach Billy Donovan gave him a clear understanding of what he needs to do to be effective.

“Coach Donovan did a good job of preparing me for what I’m going to be good at on this level,” Young said. “The (New Orleans) coaches have reaffirmed that. Go out there, be a good teammate, rebound, be a vocal leader, play good defense, have a good work ethic every day, and come in with a smile on your face, because you don’t get this opportunity every day to play basketball for a living. So enjoy it. It’s just all about effort and your mindset. I just had the will (Friday) that no one’s going to stop me from going after these loose balls.”