Even though the Kentucky Wildcats‘ freshmen couldn’t get the win in the NCAA national championship game against Connecticut Huskies, most of them, including James Young, still played well despite being so young and inexperienced.
Young came into the season with high expectations given his size (6-foot-7) and athletic skillset to go along with his deep shooting ability, but was soon overshadowed by fellow teammate Julius Randle, who is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2014 NBA draft. During the tournament, Young’s play was overlooked even more with the emergence of talents such as the Harrison twins, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. Young was not thought of to be a go-to scorer down the stretch.
Boy, did he change that notion with his performance in the championship game. He performed great under the bright lights, scoring 20 points on 5-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-5 from three. Most importantly, Young was the only player for Kentucky to make the majority of his free throws, shooting 8-of-9 from the charity stripe. The rest of the team were 5-of-15 on free throws.
Young had multiple big shots and momentum plays, including a huge dunk over Amida Brimah in the second half. Young showcased his open-court athleticism and halfcourt ability to drain shots on cue during the game, and it will go a long way to improve his draft stock.
With his struggles throughout the season to be a consistent scoring presence and capable defender, Young’s stock had gone down from a potential lottery pick all the way to being a late first-round pick. With this performance, along with his other great performances during the tournament, Young may have saved his draft stock and proven to scouts that he can be a reliable option on offense and a non-liability on defense.
Young has competition at the wing spot from his other peers who have already declared for the draft or who are expected to declare, including Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Even though Young may not have the same upside as those other prospects, he still has a skillset that can translate to the NBA.
His next step? Wowing scouts in pre-draft workouts.