Pitt's Young, PSU's Thorpe reunite in college
Mike Young considers Geno Thorpe one of his oldest and closest friends since their days as teammates.
They first played on the same AAU teams in junior high, then were freshmen at Shady Side Academy.
“It was like having a brother- from-a-different-mother type of thing,” Young said. “We were always together.”
Now, they will be on opposite sides of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge when Young and Pitt (7-0) play host to Thorpe and Penn State (6-2) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Petersen Events Center.
The 6-foot-8, 245-pound Young is starting at power forward for the Panthers, averaging 6.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.3 minutes a game. Thorpe, a 6-3 guard, is 6 of 9 from the field and averaging 1.9 points as a reserve for the Nittany Lions.
After playing for the Pittsburgh Storm and King James AAU teams in seventh and eighth grade, Thorpe and Young led Shady Side Academy to the WPIAL Class AA semifinals and PIAA playoffs as freshmen.
Young and Thorpe went their separate ways as sophomores, with Young transferring to St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J., and Thorpe to Shaler.
“We had big dreams,” Young said. “Even before the year, we thought we should win WPIAL and go far in states. Before we made the decision to leave, we were thinking the same goals and put more efforts toward it.”
Young, a Duquesne native, developed into a top-100 prospect in New Jersey, where he played at both St. Benedict's and Hudson Catholic.
“I'm a whole different player from freshman year. I really didn't play that hard, had an attitude problem,” Young said. “Now, just going to New Jersey changed me. My maturity level is high. I have a high basketball IQ. I'm a versatile player. I'm a good defensive player — I've still got to work on my defense — but I feel like I've grown a lot.”
Thorpe was a three-time Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 10 pick and two-time all-state selection who averaged 26.3 points as a senior.
“I see maturity in his game,” Young said. “His freshman year, he was kind of all over the place, kind of wild and taking crazy shots. He was 100 percent full-speed everything. He was able to control the team more, play with a pace. I've seen his jump shot improve.”
Thorpe is playing behind Penn State guards D.J. Newbill, a redshirt junior who began his career at Southern Miss, and fifth-year senior Tim Frazier, who missed last season with a torn Achilles. The duo is averaging a combined 38 points a game.
“There's probably not two more experienced guards, in terms of minutes played,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
This marks the 146th meeting between the schools, but Pitt's first in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“It's something new. We haven't played Penn State in years. To play a Big Ten team is a good opportunity for us,” Young said. “To play against (Thorpe), which I haven't done in a long time, to play Penn State and be a Pittsburgh kid ... is something great.”