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Northwestern men’s basketball player previews 2021-22: Ryan Young

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Step one: develop a consistent jumpshot. Step two: profit.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Who he is

Redshirt junior; center; 6-foot-10; Bethlehem, Penn.; attended catholic school in Pennsylvania, former 247Sports three-star recruit

2020-21 Stats

18.9 minutes per game, 7.8 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, 1.4 assists per game, 0.5 steals per game, 0.4 blocks per game, 57.4 FG%, 73.8 FT%, and 50.0 3P%.

2020-21 Review

Young’s 2020-21 season was a solid year for the sophomore. As a backup center to Pete Nance, Young came off the bench a decent amount and made his presence known in the post. He lead the team in FG%, making 57.4% of his shots, almost all of which came from within feet of the basket. Young used size and crafty post moves to create opportunities in isolation. However, this ability was largely the extent of his offense, as Young shot just two three pointers and lacked a reliable jumper. He averaged 7.8 points a game, making himself a vital asset to the team.

However, these numbers don’t tell the full story of Young’s play. He had difficulties with turnovers, averaging just as many as he did assists (1.4 per game). While turnovers are to be expected to some degree, the issue persisted throughout. Additionally, he had a middle-of-the-pack free throw percentage of 73.8%. While this isn’t inherently bad, increasing his consistency from the free throw line could be a vital boost for the team this season, as he drew the most fouls on the Wildcats last year, averaging 4.6 per 40 minutes.

Strengths

As a big, Young’s strengths come in the paint. The center can back up defenders and finish at the rim effectively. His offensive rebounding also shows a hunger that the Wildcats desperately need heading into next season. Offensive boards are a phenomenon in basketball that help both practically and mentally. Young is an archetype of the energized-bench player. He knows his role well and will expand on it as he starts this year. It is true that Young doesn’t have the best mobility, bet as a center, he won’t be closing out three-pointers on the wing. As a result, he can compensate for mobility just by the nature of his position. His knack for drawing fouls is also a consistent plus for the Wildcats.

Weaknesses

Young certainly has his offensive capabilities, but his consistent turnovers are nothing to gloss over. As a center, many of his turnovers come from getting double teamed in the paint. Last year, when Young was guarded by multiple defenders, he would often fumble the ball when trying to escape the trap with a pass. This pattern is evident with an equal ratio of assists to turnovers. If Young is able to develop a consistent kick-out pass to the wing, this could be huge for Northwestern. Young would add a layer to his offensive game, and in doing so, make opposing defenses second-guess the double team strategy.

In addition to passing, Young needs to create, at minimum, the illusion of a jump shot. While he doesn't need to shoot from mid-range to create offense, this would make him less predictable and harder to guard. In 2020, opponents knew what was coming Young would take it to the basket and try outdo the defender with a post move. Other teams knew what to expect and could plan accordingly.

Expectations

In order for Young to make the next developmental leap, he needs to shift from a strictly post-player to a mid-range threat. Young takes 73.9% of his shots at the rim, generally finding success, but an element of uncertainty is what makes players great. Giannis Antetokounmpo illustrates a perfect example of this at the highest level. Before he developed a three point shot, he was an athletic beast, but defenders knew how to guard him. When he honed his three point shooting, the defense had to step out to the arc and meet him. By having that ability, it forces the defense to guard Antetokounmpo more closely. While Young is very obviously not Giannis, the same concept applies to him. If the opposing defense is required to guard him outside of the paint, it’ll spread the floor, creating far more opportunities for Northwestern.