Have No Fear, Nick Young Is Here

Feb. 14, 2005

by Colleen Murray and Stephanie Montano

At 6'6, 195, the kid affectionately known as `Noodles' may surprise fellow students when they discover that he is the freshman phenom Nick Young on USC's men's basketball team. But Young is used to people not expecting too much from him.

'I have always been the underdog.' Young says, 'Every game I have to go out and keep proving myself.'

Young has been proving himself, averaging 11.4 points per game overall. More recently, he's had four 20 point games in his first nine conference games.

'I feel real comfortable out there. I tell my team every day that I'm going to go out there and play and they got a lot of confidence in me and in my game.' Young says. 'The coaches have confidence in me so I just got to play hard.'

Coach Saia has implemented the 1-4 Ralph Miller offense which allows the team to run the ball more.

'You just run it like the NBA style, the game I like to play.' Young says.

The new offense has only added to his confidence, helping him break out of the slump that he fell into in the beginning of the season.

'I have my ups and I have my downs. I came out in the beginning of the year and I was struggling a little bit, but I'm starting to get the hang of it.' Young says.

Young has learned to persevere through struggles. As a freshman in high school, he attended different schools in his first and second semesters: Hamilton and Dorsey, respectively.

While at Dorsey, Young's older brother, Charles Young Jr., was shot and killed. Following the death of his brother, Young did not go to school for a year.

'I stayed home to help my mom out. It was hard for the whole family. It was a struggle,' Young says.

Young remained optimistic.

'You have to rise through the struggle. Keep the right motivation. Don't let anything bring you down. There's going to be hard times and there's going to be good times.'

While playing for a traveling team, a coach suggested Young go to Cleveland high school in the Valley.

'It was hard getting up at six in the morning, and taking the bus all the way to the Valley,' Young remembers. 'I would get home at 8:30 and I rarely saw my family.'

His off-the-court struggles spilled onto the court. Although he was always tall and processed raw talent, Young had never played high school basketball.

'I always played streetball. It was hard getting my streetball mentality organized,' Young says.

At the end of Young's fourth year, no one was recruiting him except forUSC, so Young committed to the Trojans. But after Young petitioned, the city granted him a fifth year of athletic eligibility.

'I didn't have the right grades. Things that happened at Dorsey caused me to be behind a little bit,' Young said.

Young fully took advantage of his fifth year. He averaged 27.2 points per game and 10.8 rebounds earning 2004 CIF L.A. City Section and Los Angeles Times All-City first team honors. By this point, other colleges began to take notice of Young including Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh and UCLA. The Bruins had already recruited four of Young's peers, including close friend Jordan Farmar. Young was surrounded with talks of a new Fab Five. But in the end, his desire to go to USC won out.

'It has always been my dream school from the start. I always wanted to be here,' Young said. 'Why not come here and keep the rivalry up against Jordan like we did in high school?'

Farmar's Taft high school was the rival of Young's Cleveland high school.

'The rivalry actually helped it [the friendship], because we had a connection like Magic and Larry Bird,' Young says.

The rivalry was renewed when UCLA came to the Sports Arena to play USC on January 29th. In a three point loss for the Trojans, Young tied his career high with 22 points, a feat he initially achieved against Arizona State. Young credits the senior guards with sharing some of their experience with him.

'Errick Craven and Derrick Craven are kind of teaching me the ropes and trying to teach me how to play Pac-10,' Young says.

Young remembers watching the Cravens when he was in high school at Cleveland.

'I was a big fan. I got their autograph and everything,' Young says, laughing.

Errick Craven remembers the incident and teases Young about it. But Young teases Craven and the rest of the seniors right back.

'I tell them I'm going to break their records. I tell them there's a new kid in town. Have no fear, Nick Young is here. I tell them everything,' Young says.

Young's play helps to give credibility to these boasts enabling him to combine his joking attitude and amazing athletic ability. People may begin to expect more of Young in the future, but no doubt Young will rise to the challenge.

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