The 2013-2014 Kentucky Wildcats basketball team is loaded with elite talent and athletes. Perhaps no one in the class was more undervalued than wingman James Young. At 6’6″, he can attack the basket or sit out on the wing and rain down 3’s on anyone. Sadly, though, the start of the season hadn’t been particularly kind to his long range shooting % so John Calipari became a doctor, a shot doctor more specifically.
Following practice on Monday, John Calipari had his players sit down on the floor in front of him and talked to them about mind set, body language and balance.
When they miss a shot, he said not to worry about it. When the scoring side of things isn’t going their way, do other things to contribute. And when another teammate is feeling it, Coach Cal explained, be happy for them.
Anyone on this team can go off for 28 points like Aaron Harrison did Sunday, Calipari told them. One night it could be Julius Randle – which we’ve seen he’s capable of on a nightly basis. The following game it could be Willie Cauley-Stein. The next, Andrew Harrison.
And then Calipari pointed to James Young and told him it could be him that has the next big scoring night. His point to Young: Stop worrying about his struggling shot and just play. Eventually the points will come if he keeps playing everywhere else.
oach Cal’s prediction came to fruition maybe sooner than he or Young could have expected. Brushing off a 7-for-28 shooting slump from behind the 3-point line to start the season, Young erupted for five 3-pointers and a career-high 26 points in No. 4/5 Kentucky’s 105-74 thumping of UT-Arlington on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.
“I tend to put my head down a lot when I miss shots so he’s just been getting on me and just saying let the shot go and keep moving on,” Young said. “They’ll be more shots. I just listen to him and try not to put my head down and just keep moving on with the game.”
Another one of Cailpari’s prophecies that might be coming true: that preseason prediction that seven players on this team are capable of scoring 25 or more points in a game this year. Young is the third player to do it in just five games for the 4-1 Wildcats.
“Our whole team can score,” Young said. “If we all have open shots, we just tell them to take it because we can all score or get to the basket. If a guy has a hot hand for the night, we just try to get them the ball as much as we can.”
On Tuesday night, Young was the guy with the hot hand. He hit his first four shots, including his first three 3-point attempts, and scored 13 of Kentucky’s 19 points in a game-opening 19-5 run. By halftime, Young had 15 points already, four off his best mark so far, and he finished the game with 26 points on 8 of 14 from the field, 5 of 10 from behind the arc and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line.
The difference Tuesday night was a mechanical flaw Calipari spotted in Young’s shot from the Robert Morris game. According to Coach Cal, Young was leaning his shoulders too far back because of poor footwork.
“You lean your shoulders back because your legs aren’t under you and you’re trying to get a little more oomph on your shot, and when you do that, you’re basically fading away,” Coach Cal said. “You’re not going to be an aggressive consistent shooter on fade-away shots. He was doing the same thing on free throws, so we stopped him and he shortened his free throw.”
It wasn’t the same shooter – one of the country’s best – Calipari had watched over the last year-plus, so he called Young into his office Monday, pointed out the flaw and voila, problem solved.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t that quick, but Young said a little time with assistant coaches Kenny Payne and Orlando Antigua and it was an “instant” fix. Calipari said Young has to do more of that pre- and postgame shooting and fall in love with the gym.
“When I saw that most of the mechanics was right and just doing what Coach Cal told me to, I knew it was going to be a good night shooting,” Young said.
But if you’re looking ahead to the 2014 class or even the 2015 class and Malik Newman is on your wishlist, you might wanna just ratchet the enthusiasm down a bit. No he hasn’t picked a college yet or decided whether or not he reclassifies to the 2014 class but even if he did, the huge pile of letters remains untouched by his golden hands. His Dad, on the other hand, is taking point in his recruiting and at this point it’s pretty wide open.
Callaway (Miss.) High
School‘s Malik Newman can go to just about any college he wants. The junior combo guard is the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2015 and has garnered attention by everyone from Kentucky’s John Calipari to North Carolina’s Roy Williams.
But unlike most prospects, Newman couldn’t tell you who’s recruiting him. The hundreds of letters delivered to his Mississippi home remain unopened, piling up in boxes that collect dust in the storage room next to his family’s garage.
How does Newman do it? With the rumors of him reclassifying to the Class of 2014, the incessant pleading by fan bases to get him to show their school interest and not being able to say anything on social media without receiving flack from people trying to analyze every move of his recruitment, the junior doesn’t get caught up in the noise.
Instead, his father Horatio Webster keeps him grounded, handling all of his son’s recruiting so he can keep his focus on the court. That way in a year or so, Malik will be confident in a decision that will ultimately affect his future.