Patric Young: Minister of defense

Add a new title to Patric Young’s already impressive resume – minister of defense.

Hailed as the best post defender in the country all season by Florida coach Billy Donovan, Young was announced as Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year after a vote by the league’s coaches. Young was also selected as SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the third consecutive year and earned a spot on the second team All-SEC.

Through 31 games, Young has averaged 10.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. In the classroom he carries a 3.38 GPA in telecommunications.

Young has blocked 28 shots this season and has 134 in his career – seventh all-time at Florida – while anchoring a defense that ranked #1 in the SEC and #5 nationally against scoring, holding opponents to 58.5 points per game.

“I’m grateful to my teammates for playing such terrible defense so I could pick up the slack,” Young said while trying to suppress a grin Tuesday afternoon before the #1-ranked Gators (29-2, 18-0 SEC) practiced at the O-Dome in preparation for their first game in the SEC Tournament Friday afternoon in Atlanta.  “It’s a reflection of our coaches, their belief in me and how I’ve been coachable and apply it on to the court … just to be able to see what’s happening before it does and rotate properly. I think everyone on our team – it’s been a team effort. If there was an All-Defensive Team award, I would think that would be something more that should be praised. We’ve played tremendous defense all year and hopefully we can keep that going.”

What makes Young’s selection all the more impressive is that the Defensive Player of the Year award typically goes to a volume shot blocker or one of the league leaders in steals. Young ranks 21st in the SEC in blocked shots and his 21 steals are only the sixth-best total on the team.

The stats don’t tell the complete story, however. Young moves his feet, gets such great position that entry passes into the low blocks and painted area are difficult and rarely allows an opponent to get off a decent shot. When someone beats another Florida defender on the perimeter, he understands the rotations and gets into position quickly to either cut the man off completely or take a charge.

“I’m usually in the right place so I don’t have to be a shot blocker,” Young explained. “I block some shots every now and then. I run some guys down and chase them so I get some exciting ones. I’m not an Anthony Davis type guy or a Nerlens Noel. It’s just nice to be recognized for doing the right things by all the coaches on the committee and the people that voted me to win this award.”

Teammates appreciate what Young does to anchor Florida’s defense.

“He makes all the rest of us look good,” said Scottie Wilbekin, who was named SEC Player of the Year and was selected to the All-Defensive team along with Young. “If we get beat, he’s usually there to save the day, get a charge or wall up to make a difficult shot for them. He definitely makes me look good when I’m guarding the best perimeter player. He doesn’t let them get anything easy off screens and allows me to get back on the ball. In my opinion, he’s the best defensive big in the nation.”

Young also appreciates teammates Wilbekin and Prather, who were both part of the 2010 Florida recruiting class along with Will Yeguete. Wilbekin and Prather were both announced as first team All-SEC selections, quite an accomplishment since neither of them came to Florida with all the hype and both had to work their way up the ladder of success. Whereas Young started as a sophomore, Wilbekin had to wait until his junior year to step into the starting lineup and Prather became a full-time starter this season. Wilbekin also had to endure a rather humiliating suspension that kept him out of the first five games of the season.

For Young, the adversity Prather and Wilbekin have gone through made their awards that much sweeter.

“It’s pretty cool … Scottie for what happened in the offseason, his suspensions and coming back from that and being able to do what he’s done this year and Casey struggling and thinking about transferring and not playing and on the bench and finally letting go of that fear and whatever was in him that was holding him back and finally going out and playing,” Young said.” To accomplish what they did this year, I’m extremely happy those guys are on my team and I’m not going against them.”

Young could have gone to the NBA after each of his first three years at Florida, but chose to come back each season, decisions for which there is no regret. In returning to UF he’s taken advantage of the full collegiate experience by getting involved on campus, in the community and helping the Gators get to the #1 ranking in the nation where most experts consider them the team to beat for the NCAA title.

Donovan, who was announced as SEC Coach of the Year for the third time on Tuesday, says there has only bee one other player in his 18 years at the University of Florida who have maximized their time on campus as well as Young.

“He is to me as much – the only other guy that I would say was this way, would be Matt Bonner … he has been the consummate student-athlete,” Donovan said. “I think he represents, in my opinion, what college athletics is all about. His education is very, very important to him. Going to class is very important to him. He’s very active on campus; he’s very active in the community. He’s got a great personality.

“I think he, maybe more so than anybody that’s ever been in this program, has taken full advantage of everything on this campus and what it has to offer. From school, to things going on, to Christian groups, to going to church on campus, to mentoring people – all sorts of things – he has taken full advantage. Full advantage of the academic support system here, full advantage of the weight room. He’s been a real consummate student athlete. I mean – God forbid – if something should happen to Patric physically and he was not able to play basketball again I have no doubt that he would be just as successful at anything he wanted to do because he’s that kid that he’s taken advantage of the opportunity that’s been given to him.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.