Pelicans rookie Patric Young posts up against Heat forward Chris Bosh

Patric Young Preseason Q&A with Gene Frenette

by Jim Eichenhofer

In just the third game of New Orleans Pelicans rookie Patric Young’s NBA career, he’ll get the opportunity Wednesday to play in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. The 6-foot-9, 240-pounder, who went undrafted in June, is off to a good start in preseason, grabbing a total of 12 rebounds (including seven offensive boards) in 32 minutes of action.

Young has circled Wednesday’s game vs. Washington on his calendar, due to the rare opportunity to suit up and perform in front of many familiar faces.

“I’m really excited about it, having an opportunity to play in front of my hometown, my parents and grandparents,” Young said. “It will be a great experience to be in an NBA uniform there and represent my city of Jacksonville. I can’t wait for it.

“There are people (in Jacksonville) who have followed my career and are great fans and love me as a person and a player. They say they can’t wait to see me on the next level, and they say things like ‘Even though he wasn’t drafted, this guy is going to prove everybody wrong.’ There have been a lot of encouraging things like that, because that’s the exact same mindset I’ve been having every day.”

For a local perspective on Young’s return, turned to Jacksonville Times-Union sports columnist Gene Frenette. Frenette is extremely familiar with Young’s basketball career – the 22-year-old also played four years of college basketball in the SEC at the nearby University of Florida, located in Gainesville: Going back to the summer, how surprised were people in the Jacksonville area, as well as Florida Gators fans, that Young was not drafted?

Frenette: I would say a little surprised, but not shocked. Young’s offensive game is really limited, so any interest from NBA teams would be for his defense and energy that a player of his mindset brings off the bench. Most expected him to be a second-round pick, especially since his stock seemed to be going up after Florida made it to the Final Four. Did people in Jacksonville believe that Young might someday be an NBA player when he was a youngster, or was he a late bloomer?

Frenette: I don’t think a lot of people knew about Patric because he went to an academic-oriented high school, Paxon, for his first three years. When he transferred to basketball power Providence on the opposite side of the city for his senior year, his stock really soared. The idea of him going to the NBA didn’t really start to be discussed until after a couple years at Florida. As someone who has followed Young’s career from its early roots, what are some things Pelicans fans should know about him on or off the court that they may not already realize?

Frenette: Young is old-school in a lot of ways and I attribute that to his upbringing. He cares more about being a well-rounded person and pleasing people (fans, coaches, teammates, etc.) more than any athlete I’ve ever covered. Remember, he's a three-time SEC Academic Player of the Year, and that honor means a lot to him. His mother was the first black female to graduate from The Bolles School, a prestigious academic school in Jacksonville, and his father, Robert, played pro football in the USFL as a tight end. NBA coaches will love a player like Patric because he’s popular with teammates and will do anything for the team, especially diving on the floor for loose balls. The Pelicans actually played a 2013 preseason game in Jacksonville against the Orlando Magic, but this time New Orleans will have a player of obvious local rooting interest. How much excitement has there been about Young’s return to his hometown so early in his NBA career?

Frenette: To be honest, Jacksonville is a football town and it’s hard to get worked into a frenzy about an NBA exhibition game. But Young is a well-respected athlete that will get some media attention as the game gets closer, so his presence should put more people in the seats than last year. How much more, it’s hard to say. The list of recent University of Florida players who’ve become excellent pros is extensive (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Bradley Beal). Many have drastically exceeded their draft position (Chandler Parsons, David Lee, Udonis Haslem). What do you believe are the reasons why the Gators seem to prepare their players so well for the NBA?

Frenette: Two words: Billy Donovan. He’s a future Hall of Fame coach who has such an incredible aptitude and feel for all aspects of basketball. Donovan genuinely cares about the welfare of his players beyond basketball, which is a recipe for getting the most out of your players when the stakes on the court are highest. When players show that in college, that’s usually an attractive quality for NBA scouts. What are some of the areas Young improved in during his four-year career with the Gators that may help him succeed in the NBA?

Frenette: From a numbers standpoint, not a whole lot because his points and rebounds haven’t changed all that dramatically in four years at Florida. Patric is never going to be asked to be a scorer off the bench. That’s not his forte. What he’s going to bring to the NBA or wherever he plays is a defensive presence, and willingness to do the grunt work. Fans will love him for his exuberance, high-wattage smile and generally being a person they want to be around. It’s impossible not to like Patric Young. He’s the son everybody wants and the guy people want their daughters to marry.

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