Ryan Young (above) capped off a tremendous summer with a commitment to Northwestern. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Back in the spring, before his final few months of AAU basketball, Ryan Young set his next goal: earn a scholarship at a school that provided as good a combination of academics and athletics as possible. It's certainly not an uncommon goal for a talented young ballplayer, one of thousands across the country with those specific conditions in mind.
Among a few schools that fit the bill for Young, Northwestern University became a dream college for the Bethlehem Catholic rising senior, both because of its academic standing -- ranked amongst the top 25 universities in the world by numerous authorities -- and place in the Big Ten Conference.
Then, thanks to hard work and a timely assist from a future Big Ten rival, Young’s dream became reality.
Following a strong summer with the Jersey Shore Warriors on the AAU circuit, Young earned an offer from Northwestern head coach Chris Collins on Aug. 4, and accepted it on Wednesday after visiting the school’s Evanston, Ill. campus this past weekend.
Young also recently visited Maryland, which offered him on Tuesday, but that wasn’t going to change his mind. The slew of Atlantic 10 programs who had made Young a priority all summer -- Richmond, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s tracked him heavily -- were all left turning to their next options.
“After Northwestern [offered], it was going to be difficult to have another school top it,” Young said. “I thought that was the epitome of what I was looking for in a school...even Maryland or a few of the other schools in the Big Ten that are considered bigger basketball schools, I wouldn’t have chosen them over Northwestern simply because of the academics and the mix of the two.”
A 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward/center, Young established his reputation as an elite-level rebounder this summer with the Warriors, a veritable vacuum under the basket on both ends of the floor. He can also stretch the defense out to the 3-point arc with a smooth-looking jumper, even if he doesn’t unleash it very often.
Though Young isn’t an elite athlete, he’s a non-stop worker who plugs away on the blocks, and his passing skills will fit in tremendously in Collins’ system. Continued work on his body and conditioning will be crucial before he gets to campus.
“Throughout the visit we were mentioning lower body strength and lateral quickness; they switch a lot defensively on the pick-and-roll," Young said. "I watched a few full games before we even got there, and that was the biggest thing I noticed, they switched everything on the pick and roll.
“I don’t think I’m able to switch [like that] yet, but hopefully by that time [I get to campus] can get a little stronger, fit in the defensive gameplan in that way.”
That Northwestern ended up recruiting Young was due in part to a player he’ll be going up against for several years in college. Michigan freshman guard Eli Brooks, a Spring Grove (Pa.) product and former Jersey Shore Warrior himself, had recommended to his Wolverine coaches that they take a look at Young.
When assistant Billy Donlon was hired away from John Beilein’s staff in late June to join the Northwestern program, he reached out to Young again and promised to see him play during the July live recruiting periods.
Donlon tracked Young for several weeks, watching him at the Live in AC tournament in Atlantic City; though Collins didn’t see Young in person during July, watching game film was enough to convince him the forward could help his program.
“It’s kind of rare that the head coach will make you an offer without coming to watch you play,” Young said. “It was a little surprising, but as you can imagine I was pretty excited.”
Young is the third member of Northwestern’s incoming 2018 class at the moment, along with Grandview (Mo.) point guard Jordan Lathon and Revere (Ohio) forward Pete Nance, a face-up 6-8 wing/forward with a very different skillset and body from Young.
They’ll all be joining a program that just went to its first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2017, Collins’ fourth year as a head coach both at Northwestern and overall. The former Duke guard -- he was Coach K’s associate head coach at Duke for several years prior to his hiring at Northwestern -- is 73-60 with the Wildcats, having increased his win total in each of those four seasons.
“I watched a YouTube documentary on them, The Foundation, that they came out with,” Young said. “One of the coaches recommended it to me, when they first started recruiting me, it recaps the year they had this year...it’s videos of (Collins) in the locker room, talking, their game-to-game experiences, that sort of thing.”
First up, however, Young will set his sights on helping BeCaHi past the first round of the PIAA Class 4A state tournament, where they lost to Greater Nanticoke this past year. With Young and his brother, junior Kyle Young (6-7) plus talented junior guard Justin Paz (6-0), Ray Barbosa’s squad will be the favorite to win the District 11/1 4A title yet again.
And now they’ve got a Big Ten commit on the roster.
If teams weren’t thoroughly planning for Ryan Young before, you can be sure nobody’s overlooking him now.
“I was still 6-9 during the high school season last year, so anybody that was guarding me was trying to rough me up, that was the goal,” Young said. “This year, I’m sure it’ll be a little bit more than that."