Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Not quite ready for 1 and done
BJ Young decided the best way to beef up his NBA future was to continue playing for the Razorbacks
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/WILLIAM MOORE Arkansas' BJ Young misses a dunk against Florida Saturday, February 18, 2012 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE BJ Young didn’t do much carbo-loading when the Arkansas men’s basketball team toured Italy in August.
The Razorbacks’ 6-3 sophomore guard looks about as skinny as last season, though he’s listed at 180 pounds — five more than last year.
“BJ’s gotten a little stronger,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s put on 4 or 5 pounds, so he thinks he’s all beefed up.”
Young said he’s not sure exactly how much he weighs.
“I know mentally I’m 300 pounds if that’s what I need to be,” Young said. “Coach Anderson has got us ready to run and play defense and get it done on both ends of the floor.”
Young said playing for Anderson and helping the Razorbacks get back to the NCAA Tournament — where they haven’t been since 2008 — are among the main reasons he returned to college after a freshman year in which he earned second-team All-SEC honors, averaged a team-high 15.3 points and shot 50.4 percent from the field.
With those numbers, Young was projected to be a middle to late first-round pick by most NBA Draft analysts, so he could have joined the exodus of SEC freshmen to leave for pro riches along with Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague and Florida’s Bradley Beal — Young’s St. Louis high school rival.
But after entering his name in the draft, Young withdrew the day before the deadline last April, saying he wasn’t ready to leave the Razorbacks and the life of a college player and that he still wanted to be a kid.
“When a guy puts his name into the draft, he must be pretty serious about it, but I think it’s great for BJ that he’s back with us, and it’s great for us, too,” Anderson said. “For his progression, to get where he needs to go, I think what we do fits BJ.
“It was very evident in his freshman year. Not many freshman have the opportunity to do what he did, and now I think BJ can take it to another level. That’s going to be the challenge.”
New York Knicks guard Ronnie Brewer, the Razorbacks’ most recent first-round draft pick in 2006, worked out with Young in the summer.
“I think BJ’s a phenomenal player,” Brewer said. “Now he’s learning the true meaning of work ethic and becoming a team player. He’s got the opportunity to be a really special player.”
Brewer said it was a good idea for Young to return to Arkansas for another season.
“It doesn’t hurt to look, see what people think of you, see the pros and cons of what they say and then work on that for next year,” said Brewer, who played three seasons at Arkansas before entering the draft. “So to me, it was a great thing for BJ to get feedback from the NBA, but it also was a great thing for him to come back.”
Young was among a group of college players who attended summer camps with NBA stars LeBron James and Deron Williams.
“Those were both great camps and great experiences,” Young said. “I got to be around some great players, play with some great players, and I got to be around some great coaches and take some good advice from NBA coaches, retired NBA coaches and NBA players. I got a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience.”
SEC coaches said they are expecting a big sophomore season from Young, a third-team All-America preseason pick by The Sporting News and a first-team All-SEC pick by most publications and media polls.
“He’s a very dynamic player who makes baskets in a lot of ways and he’s fun to watch, so I’m sure the Arkansas fan base is really excited he’s back,” Georgia Coach Mark Fox said. “He’s got a great spirit for the game. He’s fearless, and he plays with a lot of heart.”
Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said it’s “huge” for Arkansas to have Young back this season.
“He’s as good a guard as there is in our league,” Kennedy said. “He’s got an innate ability to score — scoring seems to come easy to him — but now going from Year 1 to Year 2 in Mike’s system, I’m sure he’s going to make a lot of improvement and have the opportunity to do even more things for Arkansas.”
Florida Coach Billy Donovan said Young was overshadowed last season by the SEC freshmen who are now in the NBA.
“If you look at what BJ Young did, he had an incredible year,” Donovan said. “I think any time you’re a freshman and you can come into this league and score like he did, that’s saying a lot about him as a player. But I’m sure Mike is looking at the big picture for him now.”
Anderson said Young needs to become “a more well-rounded” player, which means excelling on defense, getting more rebounds and improving as a passer and ball-handler as well as becoming a better shooter.
“I see a guy that’s finishing a lot better at the basket,” Anderson said. “He’s working on the pullups.
“Defensively, he’s certainly got to get a lot better, on the ball and off the ball. He’s got to be more engaged in that department. I think BJ should be one of our better rebounding guards, too. If he can rebound, that’s going to make our offense even more efficient, because he can start the fast break and he really push the ball.
“He’s going to be the target sometimes, so he’s got to be a guy that can distribute the basketball.”
Young said he’s ready to do all that Anderson wants from him, including the possibility of playing point guard.
“I just consider myself a player, and whatever Coach needs me to do, that’s what I’m going to do,” Young said. “I wouldn’t assign a title to anything I do.
“This is a team thing, and I feel like we can rise up from where we were last year with the guys we’ve got back and the guys we’ve brought in.”
Young said the Razorbacks have “a great comfort level” with Anderson and his coaching staff going into the second season.
“We practice so hard. We’re so anxious and ready to play,” Young said. “We’re ready to get this energy that we have built up in these practice days and these hills we ran. We’re just ready to get out here and show these fans that we’ve been working.”
BJ Young glance
SCHOOL Arkansas POSITION Guard CLASS Sophomore HEIGHT 6-3 WEIGHT 180 pounds HOMETOWN St. Louis HIGH SCHOOL McCluer North NOTEWORTHY A preseason third-team All-America pick by The Sporting News and a firstteam All-SEC pick by several publications and media polls. ... Averaged 15.3 points and 3.1 rebounds last season when he was a secondteam All-SEC pick by the coaches and media. ... Led team in scoring 17 times last season, including a career-high 31 points against Florida. Also scored 28 against Connecticut. ... Placed his name into the NBA Draft but withdrew it a day before the deadline. ... Shot 50.4 percent from the field as a freshman, including 41.3 percent on three-point attempts (50 of 121).
Sports, Pages 28 on 11/04/2012