Pitt star's pump fake keeps fooling 'em
The Summit League's Defensive Player of the Year is a sixth-year senior who recently turned 23, claims to have stymied NBA star Chris Bosh in high school and has played 127 college games.
But he will encounter something new today -- something downright freakish -- when he bellies up to Pitt star Sam Young in a first-round NCAA Tournament game at the Pepsi Center.
"I've played against a lot of guys," says Yemi Ogunoye, the resident stopper at Oral Roberts University. "But I've never seen anybody pump fake like that ."
Neither has anyone else, including Pitt assistant coaches Orlando Antigua and Pat Sandle, both of whom played college basketball and have been watching the sport all of their lives. They chuckled and shook their heads before practice Wednesday, as they tried to think of somebody else with such an elaborate pump fake.
From start to finish, the maneuver appears to last longer than "Ghandi." In reality, it is a swift and incredibly smooth act.
It's the coolest move in college basketball, actually, the way Young hoists the ball above his head, rises to his tippy-toes and either darts to the basket or keeps on rising for a jump shot.
The two keys to the fake:
1. It mimics the precise motion of Young's jump shot.
2. His much-improved shooting forces opponents to respect it.
"Our guys still go for (the fake) on a regular basis in practice," said former Pitt guard Brandin Knight, the team's co-director of basketball operations.
Apparently, Young's fake is becoming a fad. Antigua has seen opposing players try it, with extremely limited success.
It isn't Young's only weapon, of course. His 12-story vertical leap, combined with an assortment of moves and a feathery touch, are among the attributes that have enabled him to become Pitt's highest-scoring player (18.3 points per game) in a decade.
But it has become his signature move, one he uses more than 10 times per game, in Antigua's estimation.
Young isn't sure what all the fuss is about.
"It's pretty easy to do, I think," he said. "If anybody tried to do it, they could probably put it in their game."
Young said he learned the move at Friendly High in Fort Washington, Md., from his teammate and best friend, Chris Howard, who plays at South Florida.
Problem was, the 6-foot-6 Young was a back-to-the-basket player and didn't have a good enough shot to make anyone fall for a fake. Even at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, which he attended for a year after high school, he was only an average shooter.
Once at Pitt, Young's move wasn't exactly a hit with the coaching staff. He was called more than once for traveling and almost had to drop it from his arsenal.
"Sometimes in workouts, they'd say, 'Six inches on the shot fake; don't go up so high,' " Young recalled, laughing.
Today, the 6-9 Ogunoye will try to stump the pump. Ogunoye scores about once per lunar eclipse (3.1 points per game), but lives for wrecking scorer's days.
Among his many victims this season were Oklahoma State's leading scorer, James Anderson, who did not have a point; and Texas guard A.J. Abrams, who didn't score in the first half and was held to 11 points, eight below his average.
Boasting the wing span of a 7-footer, Ogunoye was nicknamed "Dr. Octopus" by a local newspaper. He has a plan for dealing with Young's fake.
"I have to use my length to challenge shots," he said, "without jumping for the ball."
Young didn't seem concerned. He recounted a conversation earlier this month at West Virginia, with WVU star and former Hargrave teammate Joe Alexander.
"Joe," Young said, "I think I have one of the best pump fakes in America."
Said Alexander: "I wouldn't argue with that."
Neither would anyone else.