If the Naismith Award went to the player with the best physique, Patric Young would win, hands down. With a body that makes you think Young could produce 30.1 points per game like Wilt Chamberlain did while leading Kansas to the NCAA title game in 1958, the 10.1 points per game Young scored for Florida last year seems like an enormous disappointment. The comparison to Wilt may not be fair, but it doesn’t stop people thinking Young should be the next Wilt or Shaq or Dwight Howard. Great expectations simply go with the territory.
“I’ve dealt with expectations since I’ve gotten here,” Young said Wednesday at Florida’s basketball media day. “I think what I need to realize is that I am who I am. I’m going to work as hard as I can to become the best that I can be. You know, Patric Young isn’t Dwight Howard; Patric Young isn’t Amare Stoudemire, whoever else the comparison may be. I’m just going to go out there and do the best I can for my team.”
That people so often compare Young to others isn’t lost on Florida coach Billy Donovan.
“I think one of the things Patric has had to deal with, which has been really challenging for him and I feel bad for him, is that he came out of high school very, very decorated and people start comparing him to other people,” Donovan said. “He looks like Dwight Howard, he’s supposed to play like Dwight Howard, he’s supposed to do this, he’s supposed to do that.”
At 6-9 and 240 chiseled pounds, the McDonald’s All-American from Jacksonville Providence stands like an Adonis in the middle of the floor. Although he’s not a prolific shot blocker, he is an outstanding defensive player. The sticking point is what he does on the offensive end and on the backboards. He dunks and he has this baby hook that is effective from 3-4 feet but it’s rare that he takes more than six or seven shots in a game and he’s an adventure at the foul line. His career rebounding totals are a modest 5.5 per game.
The numbers don’t match the body and that has a lot to do with why people want more but it’s not like he hasn’t made an indelible mark on Florida basketball both on and off the floor nor does it mean he hasn’t gotten better.
“I think for Patric, he really feels good about the progress he has made over his three years here, but in a lot of ways everybody always wants more from him,” Donovan said. “They want to see him do more, score more, grab more rebounds. The guy is a two-time SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, goes to every single class; he’s a great kid, worked really, really hard, has gotten better.”
Getting better was the focus in the offseason where Young says he focused on shot form and confidence when working out. His teammates have seen improvement in him during preparation for this season.
“He worked hard, especially this summer he worked hard,” junior forward and Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith said. “Since I’ve been here I’ve never seen Patric not go hard, not one day. He’s been getting better each day and I hope I helped him get better, that was my objective was to go hard every day and try to make him better skilled.”
When South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris, a 6-10 shot blocker who made the All-SEC defensive team in 2011, went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery and a long rehab last fall, the task of guarding Young in practice fell on Finney-Smith, who gave up an inch and more than 30 pounds. Harris could only watch from afar, but he saw enough to know that Young has made positive changes in his offensive game.
“Just taking his time, being patient, not really rushing himself for the most part,” Harris said of Young. “It’s all about positioning and taking your time when it comes to being in the post.”
Young was named to the second team preseason Coaches All-SEC squad. He is one of four seniors on this Florida team that is thought to be headed deep into the NCAA Tournament when March rolls around. Young could have gone to the NBA after his junior year but he chose to come back, a move that might help his NBA Draft status if he shows marked improvement on the offensive end.
People will look at the Young physique again this year and once again they will expect more, but Billy Donovan, who knows Young better than anyone, says Young is just fine the way he is.
“I’m happy where Patric is at right now, but it’s been a real challenge for him and I know he’s really battled [expectations],” Donovan said. “When you’re a young kid, one of the things you try to differentiate between is: ‘Do I live up to my own expectations or do I live up to the expectations of everyone else around me?’”