Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – On a recent trip to the Ale House to grab some dinner, Gators freshman center Patric Young put away 50 chicken wings.
“I wasn’t that full,’’ said Young, officially listed at 6-foot-9, 245 pounds. “I could have gone a little more.’’
During a pickup game over the summer with his teammates, Casey Prather’s nose got in the way of one of Young’s massive shoulders on a pick-and-roll play.
Prather’s nose started bleeding. Senior Alex Tyus didn’t see the collision, but when he saw Prather’s bloody nose, he knew.
“It must have been Pat,’’ Tyus said.
Another freshman post player, 6-foot-9 forward Cody Larson, goes against Young in practice on occasion. Larson has the bruises to prove it.
“That’s a brick wall I’m going against,’’ Larson said. “He’s got a little edge to him. Off the court, you talk to him and he’s the nicest guy in the world. On the court, he’s a different person. He’ll do all the dirty work he needs to.’’
Gators guard Erving Walker sizes up Young this way: “A freak,’’ Walker said. “He is real athletic and muscular. I haven’t seen anyone work as hard as him.’’
Senior forward/center Vernon Macklin is no small guy. Macklin stands 6-10 and is listed at 240 pounds, only five pounds less than Young.
But when the two go to work out together, Macklin has a different routine than Young, whose rippled upper body makes him look more like an NFL linebacker than a first-year college basketball player.
“He is strong,’’ Macklin said. “I didn’t know he was that strong until I saw him in the weight room benching everything. We bench together, but when I go I am taking off weight, and when he goes he is putting on weight.”
As you have probably guessed by now, Young has made quite a first impression on his new teammates heading into his college debut on Thursday night when the Gators host Florida Tech in an exhibition game at the O’Connell Center.
Florida coach Billy Donovan said earlier this week that he plans to use Young at center, and perhaps put him on the floor occasionally with Macklin at power forward. While Young has yet to grab his first rebound or score his first point for the Gators, he arrives with impressive credentials for a player just 18 years of age.
He spent a portion of his summer playing for the U.S. Under-18 National Team and was Florida Class 2A Player of the Year as a senior at Jacksonville’s Providence School, averaging 14.9 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game.
He was also a McDonald’s All-American and considered the gem of Donovan’s impressive 2010 recruiting class.
“Clearly, his greatest strength to me is his incredible motor,’’ Donovan said. “He has unbelievable passion and plays with great energy and effort. Physically, he is ready to come into college and play.’’
Donovan plans to use Young as a defensive presence and rebounder, calling him the most physical player the Gators have had since winning their second consecutive national title in 2007 with Chris Richard, Joakim Noah and Al Horford doing the dirty work inside.
While Young has impressed his teammates with his physical style and tremendous work ethic, his humility has made a lasting impression on Donovan. When Young arrived on campus after spending the summer playing for the U.S. National Team, Donovan met with him to discuss the start of his college career.
“The reports from the coaches that coached him were very positive – his work ethic, how hard he played and competed,’’ Donovan said. “I kind of congratulated him and he said, ‘Yeah Coach, but that’s over with right now and I haven’t done anything in college.’ He’s got that mentality.’’
That kind of mentality is a coach’s dream. Young understands his role is primarily to rebound and play tough defense as a freshman.
How does he feel about that? After all, he was a McDonald’s All-American and a player that NBA scouts will undoubtedly salivate over on potential alone.
“I have absolutely no problem with that at all,’’ Young said. “I love that role.
“I see myself as being an energy guy, coming in wherever Coach wants to play me. I’m really just looking forward to coming in and having an impact. I don’t think I need to worry about scoring as much. I think I just need to worry about doing what I’ve been doing, playing defense, getting rebounds and hustling.’’
Yep, sounds like a coach’s dream. His teammates seem to like Young a lot, too.
“I’m glad he’s on my team,’’ senior Chandler Parsons said. “I would hate to play against him.’’