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Insider

Young's pledge gives UK loaded backcourt

10/11/2012

Shooting guard James Young (Rochester, Mich./Rochester) committed to Kentucky on Thursday afternoon. His pledge gives the Wildcats the nation's No. 1 point guard in Andrew Harrison (Richmond, Texas/Travis), the top-rated 2 guard in Andrew's twin brother, Aaron, and Young, the No. 2 shooting guard. And don't forget about skilled power forward Derek Willis (Mount Washington, Ky./Bullitt East), who is no slouch.

Coach John Calipari has now locked up three of the top five players in the ESPN 100 and has extended the Wildcats lead as the best recruiting class in 2013, leaving the other programs nearly out of the picture.

"Kentucky was my dream school, and I fell in love with everything on my visit," Young said. "The family atmosphere was something that really stood out."

Young gives UK arguably the best perimeter in college basketball next season and should keep the Wildcats in the national title discussion. This perimeter is without a doubt Coach Cal's best collection of guards since taking over the program.

"I am very excited about playing with the Harrison twins and trying to win a national championship," Young said. "Coach Cal told me to work hard, play my game and score."

Young is an elite left-handed shooter with great size who can make plays off the bounce and finish above the rim with flare.

Adding Young to this class, along with his past success at Memphis, proves without a doubt that Calipari is the best recruiter in college hoops.

"Coach Calipari is going to develop James, and he will provide him with an opportunity to be challenged,” said Young’s godfather, Sean Mahone. "James will benefit from being around other good to great players that have the same goal of winning a national championship."

Calipari has dominated high school basketball recruiting, finishing with the top-ranked class in 2009, 2010, 2011 and second in 2012, but this 2013 class could be his best work to date when you look at overall perimeter play. The group's combination of size, skill, athletic ability, toughness and a willingness to play together is a coach's dream.

The only weakness of this group is youth, but they are playing for a coach who has proved he can make things work quickly and at a high level.

Let's examine how Young's commitment affects Kentucky's game plan:

Offensive sets

Calipari will have endless scoring options with this trio on the floor. Isolations, post-ups and set plays are all possible with this much firepower. Young and the Harrison twins can all beat their defender off the dribble and get off a quality shot virtually at will. Young will have the luxury of posting up smaller guards because he already has a college-ready body. Working off a variety of screens should result in several high-percentage shots. Young can start and finish a play within the offense or at end-of-clock situations where he will expose weaker defenders on a consistent basis.

On defense

The Kentucky full- and half-court pressure defense will be a tall order for opponents. Young and the Harrison twins have the size and athletic ability to switch all same-size screens, which will take many opponents right out of their sets. The full-court zone and man press will allow Calipari to set up double-teams and traps with guards who have tremendous size, making it difficult for smaller guards to complete a pass out of the trap. This elite perimeter talent should be able to create a lot of turnovers that should result in easy baskets.

In transition

Picture this, Andrew pushing the ball on the break with Aaron running the left lane and Young on the right. All three guards stand over 6 feet and have the ability to knock down 3-pointers or finish at the rim with relative ease. That alone should make Big Blue Nation go crazy in Rupp Arena.

On the glass

Young's size, combined with that of the Harrisons, should provide the Wildcats with a terrific perimeter rebounding tandem. Young can rebound and ignite the break himself or kick it to a teammate with an outlet pass. He is a tip-dunk threat with his athleticism and will be a menace on the offensive glass.

Regardless of the situation, Kentucky should have a huge advantage with the size, talent, athletic ability and versatility Young & Co. bring to Lexington.