By Ben Roberts, Lexington Herald-Leader –
LEXINGTON, Ky. — James Young, who became latest player to commit to Kentucky on Thursday, is considered one of the best pure scorers in high school basketball.
But that wasn’t always the case.
Roy Webb has helped coach Young since the future Wildcat joined The Family AAU program when he was just 9 years old.
Webb remembers a different version of the player who is now a 6-foot-6 scoring machine ranked No. 5 in the country by ESPN.
“All he did was stand out there and shoot the ball,” Webb said with a chuckle. “We used to put him in with the older group, and all he’d do is stand in the corner and shoot.
“One day, we said, ‘If you would quit being soft, you’re going to be a good player.’”
Young eventually listened.
“He sure don’t want you to call him soft anymore,” Webb said.
Now Young will join fellow five-star recruits Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and Derek Willis, in what is quickly turning into another No. 1 class for John Calipari.
Like the Harrison twins, Young announced his intentions during ESPNU’s nationally televised recruiting show Thursday.
Young, a small forward from Michigan, pulled out a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Kentucky Bound.”
“Kentucky’s just always been my dream school,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed of going to that school. Once I went up to visit, I just fell in love with the place. It’s a great atmosphere, great coaching, great facilities, and great basketball history behind it.”
The addition of Young means that Calipari will have three top-10 prospects in one class for the third year in a row, an accomplishment that is unprecedented in the era of modern recruiting rankings.
UK is still in the running for top-5 prospects Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon, as well as Andrew Wiggins, who would likely be the No. 1 overall recruit if he reclassifies to 2013.
Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels said Calipari’s team-first, NBA-later sales pitch is obviously continuing to catch the attention of the country’s top players.
“What Cal’s pitching to these guys is, ‘Come in, buy into the team concept, and then the individual stuff will come along with it,’” Daniels said. “I think you have to be able to put some stuff aside to be able to do that. I also think it comes down to the mentality of these guys, that if you play together you’re going to win. That you have to sacrifice point totals for win totals.”
Though Young is known as one of the best scorers in the class of 2013, he’ll likely take on more of a facilitating role in Lexington, especially while playing with the Harrison twins.
Gary Fralick, who was Young’s coach for the last three years at Troy High School, doesn’t think Young will have any problems coexisting with the Harrisons.
“The thing that Kentucky is really going to like is he’s a great passer,” Fralick said. “He finds the open man. When he’d get double-teamed, he’d dribble-drive and they’d collapse on him and he would always find the right guy to pass to. He’s a fantastic passer.
“He’s very, very coachable. Always trying to please.”
Count point guard Andrew Harrison among those pleased by Young’s commitment. Having two of the best — if not the best — perimeter scorers in the country will make his job much easier.
“I’m really excited about it,” Harrison said on the ESPNU broadcast. “James is definitely one of the best scorers in the country and having him and Aaron on each side of me — as a point guard, it’s great.”
But, again, that scoring prowess didn’t come easy for Young.
Webb traced the origins back to a game when Young was about 15 years old.
The coach called a timeout and asked his players why they never passed the ball to Young, who had been constantly open at his customary spot behind the three-point line.
“And they said, ‘Coach, he don’t ever say nothin’!” Webb said.
Shortly after that, the James Young who would turn into one of the top recruits in the country began to emerge.
And everyone took notice.
“I had a lot of coaches asking me, ‘Where in the hell did you get James Young?’” Webb recalled. “And I said that James Young has been in our program from day one.
“All of the sudden he just woke up and wanted to be a pro.”