0

Clemson star, Albany native Young has Tigers rolling after career game

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Andre Young was glad his father Colie was happy. Or maybe he was just glad dear old dad was finally off his back.

He's still not sure.

What the former Deerfield star and current Clemson starter is sure of is that his Tigers have won two in a row after a loss during his homecoming (to the area) at Florida State on Dec. 12 -- and Young had a career night to show for it along the way.

"My dad was actually at the game," Young told The Herald on Tuesday about his career-high 22-point night in a 71-61 win against UNC-Greensboro on Sunday at Littlejohn Coliseum in South Carolina. "He's been bugging me forever to break that 20-point mark, so he was really happy for me."

Young paused, then added with a laugh: "But just when I thought I got him off my back, now he wants me to break 30."

Well, thanks to a challenge by Clemson (7-4) head coach Brad Brownell to become more defensive-minded after that 75-69 loss to FSU -- which Young says has led the Tigers to many more easy buckets in transition on offense -- the opportunity for more breakout games like that for the Albany native could be just around the corner.

Clemson started the season 5-1, then hit a rough patch and lost three in a row, a streak that culminated with the defeat in Tallahassee that night as nearly 40 family and friends were on hand to see Young play.

"That, to me, is one of my biggest games of the year because (it's an ACC game) and because I had so many people there that I don't get to see very often (any more)," said Young, whose supporters all sat right behind the Clemson bench in a big group thanks to Young's teammates graciously giving up their road-game tickets so their junior point guard could accommodate everyone.

Young's previous career-high was 19 points, which he scored twice -- once against the Seminoles a year ago, then tied it later in the season against Missouri. Young had 11 points in the Dec. 12 loss to FSU -- all in the first half -- but was shut out the second half, leaving Young searching for answers as to what was wrong with his team after the game.

"We just need to work on everything. Just communicating better. Playing better defense. The whole nine yards,'' Young told The Herald outside the Clemson locker room after the loss to the Seminoles. "We have a long way to go but it's a long season, so we just need to start working (to fix it) now.''

That work started the very next day.

Young says Brownell came to practice the following Monday and preached about how the team needed to get away from the focus of having an explosive offense like years past, and just get back to the basics in Brownell's new motion offense he brought to the Tigers when he was hired away from Wright State in the offseason to replace Oliver Purnell, who left for the vacant job at DePaul.

"Coach just made us realize that we needed to focus more on defense, and stop people from scoring. Then our scores (would come as a product of that)," said Young, who also dished out a team-high five assists, went 8-for-14 from the floor and 4-for-8 from 3-point range, as well as two steals and three rebounds, in his career night against UNC-Greensboro. "I think everyone got caught up -- the team, the media, everyone -- about how this new offense was supposed to be so up-tempo and fast-paced, that we forgot about defense.

"Once we started playing better defense, the offense just came (naturally)."

Clemson became a different team almost overnight.

In the Tigers' next game this past Friday after the loss to FSU, they held Savannah State to just 40 points in a 61-40 rout as Young scored 10 and added three steals to bring his team-high swipe total to 20.

Then the Tigers turned around two days later and beat UNC-Greensboro, holding the Spartans to a staggering 16 first-half points.

Young said of the game-high: "It was really because of our defense.

We'd make a steal, get it down the court quickly and guys were just making that extra pass, finding me open, and I was just hitting the shots."

Young said he doesn't keep track of personal stats while on the court -- "Most guys don't, but it just depends on the player," he added -- and that he only found out he surpassed his previous career high after he came off the court.

"The big thing on my mind (when I'm out there) is just winning the game," he said. "And if that means scoring points, that's what I'm gonna try and do. I got a couple of pats on the back afterward, though, when the guys found out (it was a career night for me)."

Next up, the Tigers have four very winnable games on their schedule -- beginning tonight on the road at College of Charleston, then three straight home contests (vs. Delaware State, East Carolina and The Citadel) -- before they get back to ACC play Jan. 8 against Miami at Littlejohn Coliseum.

And while the Tigers know the big boys -- Duke and North Carolina -- are just around the corner, Young says their focus is just getting better game-by-game.

And so far, so good.

"I think we're going in the right direction now, and we're probably playing our best basketball," he said. "We're starting to pick up more on everything (coach Brownell is teaching us), and our practices are more defensive-focused.

"I think this team has a good chance of doing something big this year."