John Denton's Knights Insider: Young Contributing to UCF's Success

Feb. 18, 2010

By John Denton

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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The whispers morphed into taunts early on predicting that Taylor Young would never be able to duplicate his small-school prep success and make it as a player at the Division I collegiate level.

But as it turns out, those doubts about Young's ability as a college guard helped him become the player that he is today for UCF.

Young, who has split time at shooting guard and point guard, has been one of the main contributors on a 13-12 UCF team that has fought its way back to respectability despite having one of the nation's youngest rosters. Young, a junior, might be averaging just 5.9 points a game, but that's far more than anyone ever gave him a chance of scoring on the Division I level.

Young averaged 25 points a game as a high school senior and was The First Academy's all-time leading scorer, but few expected much out of him at UCF. Young has spent the past three seasons proving those people wrong.

``The way I came about being here I've played with a chip on my shoulder,'' Young admitted. ``You try not to listen to people too much and just keep confidence in yourself, but those doubts are something that fueled me my whole career.

``I always heard what I was supposed to be and what I wasn't supposed to be,'' Young continued. ``It was something that always fueled me and I tried to use those doubts to my advantage.''

Has he ever. Young, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, has become an integral part of UCF's young team, serving as somewhat of a mentor for some of the Knights' younger players and a coach on the floor with a basketball IQ that's off the charts. And he's been quite good shooting the ball as well, hitting 36 percent of his 3-pointers this season. His finest game of the season came two weeks ago in a road win at East Carolina when he scored 16 points, hit three 3-pointers and handed out six assists.

``I'm just trying to take what's in rhythm,'' Young said. ``I want to take what's given to me. We've struggled shooting the ball at times this season and I don't know if I need to take more shots, but I need to take the ones that are there when I'm open.''

UCF coach Kirk Speraw has believed in Young from the time he first started recruiting the Orlando product in high school. And he liked that Young had to scratch and claw for everything that he's ever gotten in basketball and has had very little come easy to him.

``Taylor's a tough, gritty competitor. You never question the desire that he's giving to you, no matter whether its practice or games,'' Speraw said. ``The doubts about his ability certainly fuel him - sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a bad way when he tries to do too much. But when he plays within himself, he's a very good basketball player.''

Young was a decorated high school player, earning all-state honors as a senior and finishing sixth in the state's Mr. Basketball award. But many doubted if his skills would translate from Class 2A high school ball to Division 1 college basketball.

Young red-shirted his first year on campus, and soon proved to himself that he could compete with his peers. By his sophomore season he was a starter in 27 of UCF's 31 games, and this season he's again been a glue player for a young team. He said he never doubted that he'd play at this level - even if few shared that belief.

``I heard all of the time when I was coming out of high school and people wondered if I just did what I did because of the competition I was going against,'' he said. ``I got here and I was so eager to show that I could compete at this level. Throughout my freshman year in practice I just sort of showed myself that if I continued to work hard and defend that I could find myself out on the court. I realized then that it was doable.''

Finishing this regular season on an upswing and heading into the Conference USA tournament is also very doable, Young said. UCF has won three of its past four games, losing only in narrow fashion at Memphis last week. The Knights play at Southern Miss next on Saturday and that game could go a long way in determining just how the Knights close out the season.

``We're looking to play our best basketball at the end of the season,'' Young said. ``We had a tough road stretch there in the middle of the season, but now we're feeling like we're hitting our stride. We're working hard to make the best out of the rest of the season.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears several times per week on UCFAthletics.com. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.