Like most Florida fans, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with what little I’ve seen of Patric Young. The freshman has been very effective off the bench for Billy Donovan, providing toughness on the interior in the form of solid defense and rebounding. In stark contrast to the skinny kids we’ve seen arrive on campus in recent years (Chandler Parsons, Eric Murphy, Joakim Noah), Young arrived with an SEC (and perhaps NBA) body. He averages about 17 minutes per game and chips in three points, three boards and a block, partially due to the fact that two seniors occupy the starting spots in front of him. On less talented teams, Young would surely play more and produce more.
Despite coming to Florida as a heralded McDonald’s All-American, Young hasn’t made the impact of other big-time recruits across the country like Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight or Texas’s Tristan Thompson. At Florida, young bigs rarely see the court enough to become true “Diaper Dandies.” Donovan has preached fundamentals and Young still has a lot to learn, especially on the offensive end. It has worked out well the past decade with Matt Bonner, David Lee, Chris Richard, Al Horford, Noah and Marreese Speights all moving on from UF to the NBA. None of them were big impact guys in their rookie campaigns.
In fact, the last freshmen big man to star at Florida was Donnell Harvey. Back in the 1999-2000 season, Harvey put up 10 and 7 as part of a team that ran all the way to the national title game. Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Brent Wright and Teddy Dupay were the stars of that team, but Harvey was a force. There is no telling how good Harvey could have been at Florida, but unfortunately Gators fan never got to find out. Harvey bolted for the NBA, one of the rare Billy one-and-done’s.
Which brings us back to Patric Young. I had not even considered the possibility of Young heading to the League this offseason. But I stumbled up on an ESPN insider story last week touting the idea. Scouts are noticing Young because of his body and the power and speed he has displayed. They know he’s raw but he has what all talent evaluators crave: massive upside.
Here are some excerpts from the story if you don’t have Insider access:
– Patric Young will have teams lining up to draft him this spring, possibly at the end of the lottery.
– To begin with, his body screams NBA. Long, strong and chiseled, Young has the look of a five-year veteran who hasn’t eaten fried food or sugar in a decade. GMs hope their draft picks will look like Young one day.
– Young might have the best body at this age since LeBron James or Dwight Howard, the two best players at their position on earth. He’s often compared to Howard for this reason, though he seems an inch or so smaller and not quite as long, which is a big reason he’s looking like a top-20 pick and not a top-3 guy. Still, 6-foot-9 works at either big spot most nights, and with his quickness he’ll be very comfortable as a true power forward in time.
– There are always stories about underclassmen getting a “promise” from a team, hoping that compels the player to stay in the draft. But for every 10 promises we hear about, only one turns out to be true. It would not be at all surprising to find out that Young gets a promise from a team in the middle of the first round at the worst. He’d be perfect for a playoff team on the upswing. The question will be, will it be a high-enough pick for Young to jump ship before his sophomore season?
So obviously, the writer (David Thorpe) and at least a few scouts are in love with Young. It doesn’t mean he’ll leave early but the chatter will surely only increase as the season winds down and the NBA Draft approaches. Something not many Gators fans were thinking about before the past two weeks is now a possibility, though. And if it happens, it will be a huge blow to next year’s team.
Hopefully before Young makes his decision, he thinks about Donnell Harvey’s complete and total washout in the NBA. Harvey played parts of five seasons, averaged five points in just over 200 career games and was out of the league at 24. Meanwhile the bigs who stayed and developed under Donovan’s tutelage have just a slightly better track record.