First of a four-part series.
|James Young -- Shooting guard|
|Height: 6-feet-6||Weight: 210 lbs.||High school: Troy||AAU team: The Family|
Why he's No. 1: Can score in a number of ways; explosive athletically and has deep range on his jumper; attacks off the dribble with aggression.
Why he's not No. 1: Took his game to a new level this spring, but will he bring that effort on a consistent basis in the future?
What kind of pro: Wing scorers with his size and versatile offensive abilities are always needed in the NBA, and he'll put up points out of the gate.
Comparison: Nick Young
Recruiting: Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, Arizona, Kansas
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As the head of The Family AAU program, Marlon "Smoke" Williamson has coached more than his fair share of high-level players. From Chris Douglas-Roberts to Morris Peterson, Joe Crawford to Jordan Crawford, and Manny Harris to Draymond Green, Williamson is no stranger to talent. So when he says rising high school senior James Young could be the best of the bunch, it's hard not to pay attention.
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"He can look those guys in the face, and say he's accomplished more, just from individual accolades," Williamson said. "He's among the great ones that The Family has had. He's real special. He has a chance to make a lot of money playing the game."
Young, a 6-foot-6 swingman from Troy, Mich., is ranked No. 5 in the class of 2013 by CBSSports.com. He is one of the top scoring guards in the country, and the lefty looks like the prototypical athletic wing for the next level. And the level after that -- the NBA.
Before the spring, he was ranked as a borderline five-star prospect for much of the previous two years. Young played with his age group, so he didn't get a chance to show what he could do at the U-17 level, where some of his peers competed on the AAU circuit. That wasn't an indictment of his skill level, though; that's just how The Family operates.
"We rely on the idea of 'Dominate your class,' " Williamson said. "James will never be rated in the class of 2012 or the class of 2014, only in 2013. Dominate the class you're in."
Therefore, when Young finally moved up to the U-17 team in April for this year's AAU season, it was eye-opening for many observers. Young was arguably the most impressive player throughout April, dominating the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League events with The Family. He ended up averaging 18.5 points in the five events, leading his team to a 12-8 record and a berth in the Nike Peach Jam in July.
Young's play this spring moved him into the class of 2013's elite, solidifying his spot alongside some of the country's better-known prospects. In terms of name recognition, Young is not on par with the Jabari Parkers and Harrison twins of the world, but Williamson said that's part of what makes him an attractive prospect.
"He never really snuck up, he just waited his turn," Williamson said. "He's on his climb; a lot of these guys you've seen for a long time.
"I think he's the best. No one can do what he does at his position."
His late rise to top-10 prospect status isn't the only thing that differentiates Young from his elite peers. Many high school superstars in this generation are told for five or six years they're the best player out there and destined for greatness. And that hype tends to manifest itself in the star's personality and mindset.
Not Young, says Williamson. Instead of acting entitled and arrogant, Young remains modest and hard-working.
"I think this is the most humble McDonald's All-American we will ever, ever experience," Williamson said. "That's extinct from this generation. He's going to go out there and work hard every day. There are no extras. His main entrée is playing basketball; everything else is a distant second."
It shouldn't come as a surprise that some of the best programs in the country are in hot pursuit of Young. Kentucky, Michigan State, Arizona, Kansas are all heavily involved, with Ohio State also in the mix.
Williamson said Young isn't focused on recruiting right now, and will wait until after the AAU season to start planning visits and dissecting each program. Back in April, Young said Kentucky was his favorite -- but coach John Calipari had not yet extended an offer.
However, a few weeks ago the Wildcats pulled the trigger on an offer -- and UK still looks like the team to beat.
"I got that call," Young told a reporter earlier this week in Las Vegas. "I was really excited."
Given the lineage of stars coming out of The Family, there are precedents Young can look to when it comes to playing for the coaches recruiting him. There was Morris Peterson playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State; Chris Douglas-Roberts for John Calipari at Memphis; and Jordan Crawford for Sean Miller at Xavier.
"He needs to go somewhere [where] a coach really knows a guy like James Young," Williamson said. "I tell him, 'Find someone who reminds you of yourself and has had success under that coach's tutelage.' "
A decision will likely come sooner rather than later, as Young doesn't want to turn his recruitment into a circus.
Given his ever-improving talent, though, avoiding attention is becoming increasingly difficult.
"I've seen a whole lot of James Young, and his best basketball is not out in the world yet," Williamson said.
For whichever schools -- and NBA teams -- don't land him, that's a scary thought.
Wednesday: Parrish on Julius Randle
Thursday: Norlander on Aaron, Andrew Harrison
Friday: Goodman on Jabari Parker