Getting to Know Joe Young

June 30, 2015 - Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss talks with second round draft pick Joe Young on his first full day in Indiana.

Joe Young

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Getting to Know Joe Young

June 30, 2015 - Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss talks with second round draft pick Joe Young on his first full day in Indiana.
Jun 30, 2015  |  03:08

Joe Young Meets with the Media

June 30, 2015 - Second round draft pick, Joe Young, meets with the media after a Pacers workout.
Jun 30, 2015  |  02:45

Joe Young Talks About Oregon Chalk Talks

June 30, 2015 - Second round draft pick, Joe Young, talks to the media about the chalk talks he led while playing basketball at the University of Oregon.
Jun 30, 2015  |  01:51

Draft Pick Young, Pacers Have Family Ties

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Most second-round picks in the NBA Draft seem fairly random, a blindfolded toss at a dartboard propelled by hope for a small miracle.

Joe Young's arrival to the Pacers, on the other hand, feels more like fate. How's all this for coincidence?

His father, Michael, was a first-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics in 1984. There's a photo hanging on the wall at his home in Houston taken at his press conference, with a photo of Pacers president Larry Bird in the background.

An assistant coach at Oregon, Kevin McKenna, is a former Pacers player who played against Bird in college, coached at Bird's alma mater, Indiana State, and still gets in some trash-talking rounds of golf with Bird's brothers in Terre Haute.

An injury in Young's pre-draft workout with the Pacers prevented him from working out for other NBA teams, making it far easier to secure him with the 43rd pick.

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And, he just happens to be a cousin of Paul George, the Pacers' marquee player.

"There's so many stories coming out of this, it's amazing," Young's mother, Tina, said.

Start with the family ties. George and Young descend from a pair of twins, Merice and Olympe, who grew up in Opelousas, La. They were the Mulatto daughters of a Negro slave, Celeste'. George can trace his ancestry to Merice, and Young to Olympe.

There's a certain irony here that brings the family history full circle. Merice died at the age of 35 on Nov. 9, 1855. Her three young children were then reared by Olympe, meaning Young's great-great-great-great grandmother did George's great-great-great-great grandmother a life-altering favor. Now George has an opportunity to return a career-altering favor to Young by mentoring the fresh-out-of-college prospect.

Young wasn't aware of his relationship with George until his mother, Tina, told him after the draft. Her information comes from a relative, Alex Da' Paul Lee of Beaumont, Tex., who has conducted extensive research into the family genealogy, which can be found in greater detail at www.facebook.com/Alexgenealogy.

Young is still trying to figure it out himself.

"It's just a long story," he said Tuesday morning when he met with the Indianapolis media for the first time. "There's a lot thrown at me."

Young knows his relationship with George won't be enough to land him a spot on the Pacers' roster. In fact, the relationship that has the most direct bearing on his future is with his father, Michael, who passed on basketball bloodlines and a work ethic that got him this far. Michael Young, a member of the University of Houston Phi Slamma Jamma team that twice reached the final game of the NCAA tournament, was the 24th player selected in the '84 draft by the Celtics. A 6-7 forward, he wound up playing 49 NBA games, 45 of them for the Clippers and two each for Phoenix and Philadelphia. He played professionally for 13 years, most of them overseas or in the Continental Basketball Association.

Young, a third-team All-American in college, instilled an athletic mentality in all five of his children. Joe, the second-oldest, had to get up at 5 a.m. in the third grade during the school year to work out, and had to do even more in the summers. He ran track and cross country until he was 13, when he began concentrating solely on basketball.

"That's the type of dad he has," Young's mother, Tina, said. "(Michael) started a work ethic with Joe."

"At that type of age, you don't want to get up at 5 o'clock," Young said. "It started to click a couple of years ago that hard work pays off."

Michael Young hasn't been an oppressive, meddling father, though. McKenna says he was supportive of the Oregon coaches, and asked if they wanted him to push Joe in certain areas to help them.

Young's workout with the Pacers brought bad luck for him, but great luck for the Pacers. A participant in the first of the Pacers' pre-draft workouts, he sprained his left foot during a one-on-one drill. He re-laced his shoes and completed the session, but could barely walk afterward and was forced to cancel his other eight scheduled workouts.

If not for that, he likely wouldn't have been available to the Pacers in the second round. His ever-improving performance at Oregon, where he led the Pac-12 in scoring his two seasons there and was named the league MVP as a senior, had caught the eye of NBA scouts. He's ultra-athletic, an outstanding shooter, a leader and a worker. He played off-guard his junior season at Oregon, but mostly point guard as a senior. At 6-2, he obviously will have to make it as a point guard in the NBA, and it so happens the Pacers have a couple of openings at that position.

It helps Young's cause that he's not a one-and-done infant just shedding his swaddling clothes. He redshirted before beginning his college career at Houston, then transferred after two seasons when his father was caught up in a controversy that generated a lawsuit. He turned 23 on Saturday, so he's just two years younger than George.

"I'm ready," he says.

It also helps Young's cause that he's displayed the sort of leadership qualities point guards need. Young made it a point to fit in his first season at Oregon, when it had a strong core of seniors, but took over last season's team. The Ducks had just three returning rotation players, and got off to a slow start. Young took it upon himself to call 8 a.m. meetings – "Joe's Chalk Talk," they called it – in which he stood at a white dry erase board and went over fundamental aspects of the game. Aggression, communication, defense, offensive execution, being coachable, that kind of stuff. Then he took them out onto the court for a show and tell session.

He did that for a week. The following week, his teammates complained that he wasn't continuing with the lessons, so they gathered for another week.

"That chalk talk really worked," he said. "Getting a team that wasn't together at the beginning and getting together as a family, you can go far. You have each other's back at the end of the day."

Young, by the way, wants to coach someday.

"Not right now," he says. "I plan on being in the league for some years."

McKenna says the impact of Young's leadership was dramatic.

"He knows how to reach the kids, how to inspire them a little bit," said McKenna, who averaged 6.3 points over 61 games for the Pacers in the 1981-82 season. "We weren't a very good team and Joe recognized that we needed them to move along a little quicker. He took it up on himself to reach out to those guys.

He used to text them every day, with come-together type stuff. It really paid off. Guys bought in and played better."

Oregon started the season 5-3, which inspired the Chalk Talk gatherings, then got it together in non-conference play. It suffered a 90-56 road loss to No. 6 Arizona on Jan. 15, however, to drop to 4-4 in conference play. It came back two days later to win at Oregon State by one point in overtime, which proved to be the season turning point. The Ducks went on to win 11 of their final 13 conference games and finish second to Arizona in the Pac-12.

Oregon defeated Oklahoma State in the NCAA tournament with Young scoring 27 points. It ultimately lost to eventual national runner-up Wisconsin, with Young scoring 30.

"We were 9-0 in games decided by five points or less, and Joe was a big part of that," McKenna said. "He hit shots at the end of games and made plays at the end of games. He was pressing early in season, maybe looking toward the draft too much. He was too tight, thought he had to do it all, but once he relaxed his numbers got way better.

"The way the game is going, you've got to be able to score. If you've got the ball in your hands, you've got to be able to score. Joe can go get a shot, he can create space, and he has good ballhandling ability, athleticism and quickness. He decision-making and playmaking will improve; it did for us. It's a totally different game where he is right now. Once he gets to that level he'll figure it out. He's a good instinctive player."

Young's arrival to the Pacers reconnects a tie for McKenna, too. After graduating from Creighton, where he had played against Bird, he played six NBA seasons for four teams. His coaching stops include three seasons at Indiana State, from 2007-10, and he still looks for opportunities to get back to Terre Haute. He played golf with Bird's brother, Mark, and other friends when he returned to Indianapolis for the Final Four this year.

Now, through Young, he's got another reason to follow the Pacers or to come back to Indiana.

"It's kind of a neat deal," he said. "I'm a Pacers fan again."


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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