Local product Young ready to start Pitt career
Pitt freshman Mike Young spoke with former Panthers standout DeJuan Blair this summer about expectations that come with playing for your hometown college.
The Panthers' season opener against Savannah State at 7 p.m. Friday at Petersen Events Center carries special meaning for Young, who hopes to follow in Blair's prodigious footprints.
“I think about it a lot, watching him, and how he progressed through Pitt. Since I was in the eighth grade, I've been coming to the games,” said Young, who selected the Panthers among offers from Florida, West Virginia, Connecticut, Georgia Tech and N.C. State. “I talked to him once in the summer. I'd like to take some things from him — playing hard, tougher — and implement them in my game.”
Blair and Young are noted for their physicality and low-post presence.
Blair starred at Schenley prior to becoming one of the best players in Pitt history, despite only playing two college seasons. Young, from nearby Duquesne, spent his freshman year at Shady Side Academy before moving to New Jersey and playing for nationally ranked St. Benedict's Prep.
Young admitted to catching a case of nerves prior to his first college game. He laughed it off by discussing how many game tickets he'll need for friends and family.
“A lot,” he said, “but it'll be fun.”
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said it's important for Young to be himself.
“I was joking with him and the team, calling him an athlete,” Dixon said. “He wasn't an athlete when he got here in June. He's lost weight, he jumps better, he dunks the ball when he didn't dunk before.”
“He can score, shoot the ball,” senior Lamar Patterson said. “It'll open things up for Talib (Zanna) down low; they won't be able to double as much. If Mike Young's hitting shots, they can't really do that.”
Young has no concerns about his ability to contribute right away at power forward and center. He will be the 14th Pitt freshman to start in a season opener.
“If I just play my game, whatever I want to do on the court, I should do,” Young said. “Play to my mismatch, whether it's inside or outside, the four or the five.”
Young showed something else in Pitt's exhibition games against UC San Diego and Slippery Rock. He must stay out of foul trouble to remain on the court.
“He had two of those moving screens (against Slippery Rock),” Dixon said. “Those are turnovers and those are fouls and they affect his time on the court.”