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Northwestern men’s basketball 2020-21 player reviews: Ryan Young

The undersized center had his moments despite the team’s lack of overall success.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament- Minnesota vs Northwestern Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the men’s NCAA Tournament underway and Northwestern’s season officially over, it’s time to break down the 9-15 rollercoaster season from the Wildcats and the performances of each individual player. Next up is Ryan Young, the sophomore center out of Stewartsville, New Jersey.

After redshirting his first year in Evanston, Ryan Young took over as starting center from Northwestern legend Dererk Pardon at the beginning of the 2019-20 season. The 6-foot-10 rookie went through some growing pains but showed a lot of promise going against some of the most talented big men in the country night in and night out.

This year, Young found himself starting games on the bench most nights as Chris Collins often opted to employ Pete Nance as a small-ball center. He still made the most of his time on the floor and provided a much-needed spark off of the bench throughout the season. Young did have his fair share of struggles on both ends of the court, particularly in the turnover department, but ultimately had himself a successful sophomore season.


The following numbers are from

At first glance, the figures that Young put up this season seem ordinary. His 59% conversion rate on two-pointers in conference play, a slight jump from his mark of 53% a season ago, stands out as impressive, but his other concrete stats are fairly mediocre.

Instead, it was the little things tracked by more advanced metrics at which Young excelled. Most notable are his respective offensive and defensive rebounding percentages of 9.2% and 18.6% during conference play. These figures were good for 11th and 15th best in the conference, and ranked first and second on the team, respectively. In a conference dominated by talented big men, Young’s stellar job on the boards is noteworthy.

Young also did well to draw fouls, something Northwestern players struggled to do all season. He was the only player on the team with a true post presence, and his aggressiveness down low is represented by his 4.6 fouls drawn per 40 minutes played, the highest such mark of anyone on the team by 0.9.

Shot Distribution

The following stats are taken from

Almost all of Young’s shots came from inside of the three-point line, seeing how he took just two three-point shots this year (hitting one of them!). This helped him garner a 61% true shooting percentage, the best mark on the team. The New Jersey native took a majority of these shots (78.9%) at the rim, as he was the only player on the team who wasn’t a jump-shooting threat.

Only 34.4% of these shots at the rim were assisted, evidence of Young’s strong post game. His go-to was backing down opposing centers in one-on-one situations, and despite an unorthodox combination of moves, Young found consistent success. His shooting percentage of nearly 63% at the rim is solid, especially when considering his lack of alley-oops and dunks.

The Good

After being relegated to a smaller role on the team, Young did a good job in increasing his efficiency on the court this season. He played nearly seven fewer minutes per game this year at 18.9 per game, but the undersized center managed to increase his block, assist and field goal percentages. Young also had a higher free throw percentage and offensive rating this season compared to his freshman year, all while leading the team in PER (Player Efficiency Rating).

As perhaps the only player who could consistently create his own shot in isolation situations (we’re taking out Audige heaves), the sophomore did well to make timely plays and buckets. Most fans will remember his game-winning putback against Nebraska in Northwestern’s last game of the regular season, but Young made important shots during scoring droughts for the ‘Cats all year long.

The Bad

While Young became more efficient in most major offensive categories, he struggled with turnovers. The sophomore center averaged 1.4 turnovers per game, as he got careless with the ball down low, especially when being double-teamed in the post. He had the second-highest turnover rate on the team behind only Anthony Gaines.

Young could also be a liability on the defensive end of the court. He possesses an unfortunate lack of mobility, which makes it difficult for him to guard a center who can shoot. It also made it difficult for him to recover when he got beat off the dribble, leading to switches and defensive miscues that could lead to open shots.

The Bottom Line

It’s become clear the experiences of an up-and-down freshman year helped Young improve. His post game was improved and undoubtedly effective, and he showed that he could score against almost anyone in the country. Young wasn’t necessarily a dominant paint presence like Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn, but he did more than enough on both offense and defense to make a significant impact. Considering Young’s efficiency this year, it will be interesting to see how Chris Collins will deploy him next year, potentially in more two-big lineups, with the loss of starting forward Miller Kopp and the potential of other transfers.