Rutgers is preparing to play its first NCAA Tournament game in 30 years, and they would not be here without Jacob Young.
The Scarlet Knights have a core that should be entering their second-straight tournament appearance if it were not for a national pandemic. Everyone played apart in a 15-11 season that included 10 wins in the Big Ten.
Geo Baker is the leader, Myles Johnson is the enforcer, and on both ends of the floor — Young is the heart and soul. The leadership and experience of Young will play a huge part in Rutgers’ first-round matchup against Clemson.
Young is the lone member of the Scarlet Knights that has been to the big dance. During the 2017-18 season, Young was apart of the 10th-seeded Longhorns that suffered an 87-83 overtime loss to No. 7 Nevada. Young finished with eight points in 40 minutes in this game. And it would be his final one in a Texas uniform.
After two years at Texas, Young decided to take on the challenge of coming to Rutgers. During Steve Pikiell’s first two years as head coach, the Scarlet Knights finished a combined 6-30 in conference play. Young still decided to make the move and made an impact right away.
After sitting out the 2018-19 season, Young played 30 games last season and proved to be a big-time performer. This did not show more than Rutgers’ trip to Purdue on March 7.
Young drove down the lane in overtime and threw down an emphatic dunk over 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms. The 6-foot-2 Young provided a spark that helped Rutgers gain a must-win victory over the Boilermakers.
Here in 2020-21, Young gave us another unforgettable play in a must-win contest.
The Scarlet Knights were coming off a blowout loss against Nebraska that left fans uncomfortable about their tournament standing. To make it a bit more difficult, the Scarlet Knights were preparing for a matchup with Marcus Carr and Minnesota at Williams Arena, a place they have never won before.
With the game tied at 63 with 18 seconds left, Minnesota corralled the ball and had a man streaking down court for what would have been a wide-open layup. Young did his best McCourty brothers imitation and intercepted a pass at half court to give Rutgers the last shot and ultimately send the game to overtime.
Young has scored in double-figures in nine straight games and 11 of the last 12. This includes a 23-point performance against the Golden Gophers that clinched the Scarlet Knights’ tournament spot. Defensively, Young led the Big Ten in steals per game with 1.8.
Young’s progression has been visible night in and night out. He came over from Texas with incredible speed and a knack at getting to the basket. During his time at Rutgers, Young has turned into an excellent decision maker and jump shooter.
This season, Young is shooting 36% from the three-point line. Will he turn the ball over a bit? Sure. Young is averaging three turnovers per game this season and that is what happens when a guard attempts to make plays. Young certainly has shown more good than bad this season.
The Scarlet Knights are back in March Madness. This is a team that will be a tough out because of the way they defend. It begins with Clemson on Friday night and could continue to a potential matchup against second-seeded Houston on Sunday.
One thing is certain. If Rutgers wants to advance in this tournament, Young will have to play a huge role. When looking at the past, there is no reason to believe that he will not.