With the news that Texas transfer Jacob Young committed to Rutgers on Saturday, which we covered here, I thought it would be interesting to find out more about the talented guard from someone who saw him up close the past two seasons. I was fortunate to speak with Wescott Eberts, who is the Executive Editor of SB Nation’s Texas site, Burnt Orange Nation. It’s no secret that Young didn’t fulfill his potential at Texas, but I think that looking at the stats only tells part of the story. In an effort to find out more on Young’s time at UT, here are Wescott’s answers to my questions. I’ll close with my take on the feedback and my overall thoughts on what adding Young means to the future of Rutgers men’s basketball. Let’s tip thing off.
AB: Young came to Texas as a 4-star recruit, but leaves after just two seasons. How would you some up his career at Texas?
WE: Jacob Young’s career was remarkably inconsistent, if not simply bad for long stretches. He shot less than 30 percent from the field as a freshman and made only 22 percent of his three-point attempts. At times, Young was really good this past season, like when he scored 29 points in 32 minutes against Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament. He followed up that performance by hitting only 1-of-6 attempts from three-point distance in the NCAA tournament. In a previous game against the Red Raiders, he fouled Texas Tech’s star guard, Keenan Evans, on a three-pointer when Texas was up by four points with less than a minute left. The Longhorns went on to lose the game and Young didn’t play much for a couple weeks afterwards.
AB: What are the strengths and weaknesses with his game?
WE: The biggest strength and the biggest weakness for Young is his confidence. He’ll shoot from anywhere on the court, whether he’s hot or not and is always ready to attack off the bounce. The odd thing with Young is that he seems like a better shooter than he’s shown in games -- hence his inconsistency defining his game.
AB: How is Young on the defensive end of the floor?
WE: Young is a capable defender who can be good at times in creating steals -- he averaged a little less than one per game. At times, his decision making wasn’t particularly good, as evidenced with the late foul against Texas Tech. If he’s engaged and not making mental mistakes, Young can be an asset on defense.
AB: What was reputation as a teammate, as well as off the court and in school?
WE: I don’t have any reason to believe that Young was a poor teammate or a malignant force on the team. Texas actually had a reputation for good chemistry last season. The thing that stands out about Young is that he’s a unique personality who isn’t necessarily easy to coach. Now, that doesn’t mean that he’s uncoachable or has a bad attitude, he’s just a guy who has so much confidence and belief in his own ability that he doesn’t always play under control or take good shots. For anyone who ends up coaching Young, that means that it’s necessary to push the right buttons with Young on a consistent basis. Shaka Smart wasn’t able to do that.
AB: Were you aware of any other schools Young was talking to aside from Rutgers?
WE: I’m not aware of any other schools that Young was in contact with and I believe that Rutgers was his only official visit.
AB: Please name one thing Rutgers fans should know about Young?
WE: Jacob Young will never go through a prolonged shooting slump because he doesn’t believe in himself. As a scorer, he has some definite upside, but the question is whether he will ever harness that upside on a consistent basis. A redshirt year should aid his development and there will be definite flashes from Young, at the least.
Thanks to Wes for taking the time to give more insight on Young’s Longhorn career. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that Young’s career at Texas was a disappointment, because he likely wouldn’t have left that program if he excelled there, which is the case with most sit-out transfers. He was a highly touted 4-star recruit who failed to establish himself at a consistent level for two seasons under head coach Shaka Smart. While Young is known as a scorer and shooter, he shot just 22.7% from three-point range as a freshman on 110 attempts. He did improve to make 32.3% of his 93 shot attempts from behind the arc as a sophomore, but still was not consistent enough to establish a bigger role for Texas. He also made strides overall from the field, as he made just 28.7% of his shots from the floor as a freshman but improved to 41.3% as a sophomore. Even so, none of those shooting percentages are representative of where Young could or even should have been. However, there are reasons to be optimistic that Young will achieve his potential at Rutgers.
It’s important to recognize that every situation is different and that Young should be given a clean slate by Rutgers fans. I’ll admit I was surprised that the staff pursued Young, but they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt and must believe he can become a valuable asset to this team. He is a super talented player who didn’t fulfill his potential at his first stop, but that doesn’t mean it can’t come together for him eventually. Having a full year to work and learn under Pikiell and the staff, who obviously have a plan for him, as well as establish chemistry with the rest of the Rutgers backcourt, will be vital to his future success with the program. Taking a step back by sitting out games next season, while being able to work on his body and his game should be a major positive. Learning the culture and system by practicing with the team everyday should be beneficial to his growth. Plus, he did improve statistically in his second year, so it’s reasonable to expect continued improvement.
Another positive is that the staff was able to sell a talented, but under performing player in their own abilities to develop him into an NBA prospect. Young’s best route to making any living as a professional basketball player is as a point guard, just like his brother Joe, who just finished his third NBA season with the Indiana Pacers. The idea that Pikiell, as well as assistants Brandin Knight and Karl Hobbs were all successful point guards in the Big East likely resonated as a major plus to Young. If Young can flourish at Rutgers, it will be a major plus to sell on the recruiting trail in the future.
His buy-in to the culture and vision that Pikiell has with the roster he is building is the most important key to this working for both sides. His ability to mesh with Geo Baker and Montez Mathis, who both congratulated Young on Twitter after the news broke, will be critical as well. There should be no doubt that Young will be motivated to prove the doubters wrong and he’ll have every opportunity to take advantage of the time he has this year to lay a foundation for his success in the two seasons that will follow.
If he is successful, Young will give Rutgers an explosive weapon on the offensive end. At his best, he could develop into a complete player that is a key cog in Pikiell’s years four and five at the helm, which are seasons that the program could make a significant jump forward. The addition of Young boosts the talent level of the roster and it’s the coaching staff’s job to make all of the new pieces gel over time.
It’s easy to complain that taking a transfer like this doesn’t make as much sense as saving the scholarship for a four year player in the class of 2019. I understand the frustration about the lack of success so far in recruiting New Jersey. The recruitment of Young seemingly came out of nowhere and moved quickly. However, there is no denying that this program has more depth and talent on the roster at this point in Pikiell’s tenure than there has been in years. Patience will be needed in watching it all come together, but we may look back three years from now and say that the addition of Young was the one that really helped push the program forward in a big way.