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BOYS BASKETBALL: Troy sophomore Young growing both on and off the court WITH VIDEO

Troy High School boys basketball player James Young. Photo taken on Thursday, January 20, 2011, at Troy HS in Troy, Mich. (The Oakland Press/Jose Juarez)

TROY — Normally, the sight of a team’s best player showing up to practice 25 minutes late every day would probably result in the following types of punishment from a head coach:

The coach instructing that player to run many, many laps around the gym.

The player having to do multiple push-ups or something else physically agonizing.

Or, to extend the possibilities to a really humiliating level, punishing the player by having it sing “I’m A Little Teapot” in front of the whole team.

But instead of coming up with disciplinary actions, the sight of sophomore James Young showing up to practice 25 minutes late each day brings a wide grin to the face of Troy boys basketball coach Gary Fralick.

On a small scale, Fralick is always happy to see Young stroll into practice because he knows how valuable he is to the Colts.

The 6-foot-5 forward/guard is playing as well as anyone in the county right now, averaging 26 points and nine rebounds a game for a Troy team that’s off to a 10-1 start.

But in the bigger picture, Fralick doesn’t mind Young coming late to practice because he knows where his standout sophomore is coming from.

Each day, Young comes to practice late because he is receiving extra tutoring, which shows his dedication to rectifying a mistake made last season as a freshman.

“Last year I messed up and I’ll never let it happen again,” Young said.

During the first half of last year, Young established himself as one of the area’s best freshmen, immediately making an impact for the Colts and frustrating opponents.

Unfortunately, Young was not applying himself in the classroom the way he was on the court, and he was punished for it.

Young was ruled academically ineligible for the second semester.

He was able to practice with the team, but sat on the bench during games and watched helplessly as the Colts fell to Waterford Kettering in a Class A state tournament district opener.

“It really sucked knowing I couldn’t help my team out,” Young said.

But many like to point out that it’s not mistakes that define a person, but rather how that person learns from and responds to the mistakes.

Thus far, Young has been as much of an all-stater in that regard as he s shown to be on the court.

While Fralick said he still has work to do and needs to keep progressing in school, the academic strides he’s made have been terrific.

In other words, Fralick and Troy are happy knowing that the only thing that’ll prevent Young from competing in the playoffs this year is if he gets injured, not academic ineligibility.

“He’s matured a lot,” FralickFralick said. “He’s made great strides from his freshman year to his sophomore year. He’s become much more responsible. That includes everything.”

Young said dedicating himself more to his work in class involves more than just staying late for extra tutoring and missing a bit of practice time to do so.

He said he now often sits in the front row of classrooms and communicates more regularly with teachers than he did last year.

As is often the case, Young has also discovered that applying himself more in school has made him better on the court, and it would be hard to argue with the season he’s had.

Young has been a nightmare for opponents to guard, having scored 30 or more points three times this year.

“He can do so many things for you,” Fralick said. “He can handle it, he can shoot it, he can pass it and he can rebound it. He can play all five positions. You lose a guy for a considerable amount of time like last year, it weakens your team all the way. 

Since last year, Young has grown 2.5 inches and he said there’s a chance he can shoot up to 6-9 before his high school career is over.

Hearing that made the smile on Fralick’s face get even wider.

“That would be nice,” Fralick said. “If he goes 6-9, then ‘Wow.’ ”  

Believe it or not though, shooting up a few more inches in height might not be the best thing for Young. Throughout his whole life, Young has developed perimeter skills and would much prefer to play on the outside than he would in the post.

It’s not that he can’t score points in the paint, but he simply likes scoring in the way a guard does.

Growing to 6-9 might force him to hone his low-post moves, but Young will cross that bridge he comes to it.

Regardless, he’s already drawn lots of interest from Division I college programs already wowed with his ability.

Fralick preferred that the names of those schools that have sent coaches to see Young at games and in open gyms not be made public, but the point is college coaches are already eyeing Young.

“If he makes the same strides from his sophomore to junior year that he has from his freshman to sophomore year, he’ll be hard to stop,” Fralick said.

Like everyone though, the college coaches will no doubt be monitoring Young’s academic progress, hoping he can continue to further develop in that area, like he has the past year.

“I thank my coaches and my teachers for all they’re contributing this year,”  Young said. “I’m just trying to keep my head in the game and keep focused.” 

If he can do that, then missing the first 25 minutes of practice will always be a forgivable offense.



E-mail Keith Dunlap at keith.dunlap@oakpress.com

Last Updated: 1/23/2011 3:03:40 AM EST

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