Deerfield plans to retire Young's No. 11 jersey

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- The last time the Deerfield-Windsor basketball team had a special ceremony was Feb. 8, 2008, when longtime coach Gordy Gruhl was honored at center court for his 900th career win with the Knights.

A little more than two years later, Gruhl is ready to return the favor for one of the players who helped get him there.

In between the DWS girls and boys games against Tiftarea on Jan. 29, the No. 11 jersey of former star Andre Young -- a young man Gruhl calls "the best overall player" in the program's history -- will be adorned above the rafters in the Knights' gymnasium, joining just five other players in the school's rich history to receive that honor.

"While you hate to say one of the great players to come through is better than another, I think he's the best player overall we've ever had, and certainly the best (boy) guard," said Gruhl, who is also the school's athletic director. "There's just no question about it in my mind."

Young, who is now a sophomore at Clemson University for the No. 18th-ranked Tigers (6-1), averaged 25 points as a Knight, helping lead them to the GISA Class AAA playoffs all four years, reaching the Elite Eight his freshman year, Final Four as a sophomore and then back-to-back state title game appearances as a junior and senior.

When reached via cell phone by The Herald late Monday in Clemson, Young said he was thrilled, and couldn't wait.

"I'm pretty sure I'll have goosebumps," said Young, who also wears No. 11 at Clemson. "I'm excited and honored, and I'm sure it'll bring back a lot of great memories."

Young's father, Colie, first alerted his son to the news late last week after Gruhl made the decision to retire the jersey.

He said Monday it "still hasn't sunk in."

"I just have such big aspirations for Andre that right now I'm worried about him getting to the point where Clemson wants to retire his jersey, so it still hasn't sunk in -- and probably won't until that night when it happens," Colie said. "But when we found out, I was just overcome with pride. I'm so proud of him. Any time you get your jersey retired at any school, it's a big deal. It doesn't happen a lot."

Young echoed those sentiments, adding he wasn't sure when, or if, this day would even come.

"It doesn't happen that often," said Young referring to the short list of five other former DWS basketball players who have had their jersey's retired -- Kelly Gardner, Teresa Brown, Fain Spurlock, Joey Carroll and Perry Revell. "It will be hard, though, being out there watching a game that night and watching coach Gruhl coaching and not playing for him and Deerfield. There's some really good memories in that building for me."

Gruhl said the decision to retire Young's jersey so soon after he departed for Clemson, S.C., was really an easy one, considering how well his former star is playing for the Tigers and coach Oliver Purnell.

"We usually wait a year or two at least to see how the player does in college and carries himself through his college years," Gruhl said. "And so far, there's not a person disappointed with how Andre's doing."

Young, while not currently a starter in Clemon's rotation, is one of the first players off the bench each game so far and is averaging 22.2 minutes a game with an 9.7-point average. Young even hit a big 3-point shot down the stretch in Sunday night's game against No. 20 Butler for a 70-69 win, finishing with 12 points.