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Young's jersey retirement at DWS tonight canceled

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Sometimes life just isn't fair.

That was, in a nutshell, how former Deerfield-Windsor basketball star Andre Young and Co. were feeling Thursday when word was received that Clemson -- where Young now plays -- wasn't going to allow its point guard to return to Albany this evening for the retiring of his No. 11 tonight before the Knights' game against Tiftarea, despite arrangements having been made by DWS athletic director and basketball coach Gordy Gruhl four months ago.

"Basically, Clemson reneged," Gruhl lamented Thursday, shortly after receiving word. "It's extremely disappointing, and not only for Andre, but all those folks who love and care about him and were coming out (tonight) just to see his jersey retired. We set this up in October, got it all cleared and even picked a date that worked for (Clemson). It's just a shame."

Gruhl added that there were no makeup plans for the ceremony and that it would likely have to be put off until next season.

"We picked a date that wouldn't keep Andre from any of his games -- Clemson plays on Sunday this week, rather than Saturday -- and (his absence) meant he would only miss one hour-and-a-half of practice," Gruhl said. "But I guess that was too much and Clemson did what they had to do."

The decision by the Tigers and head coach Oliver Purnell to keep Young, a sophomore, from making the trip back home likely stems from the fact Clemson is in the midst of a three-game losing streak and starting point guard Demontez Stitt is currently out injured, meaning Young is now the starter. The Tigers, which have bounced around the Top 25 rankings all season due to its inconsistent play, started this week unranked in The AP Top 25, but No. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 -- and undoubtedly will be dropped out completely after the Tigers' horrendous last week.

Before the last three games -- all Tigers losses -- Clemson (15-6, 3-4 in the ACC) had won 11 of 13 dating back to late November, including a victory against defending national champion North Carolina. But this week, they lost to Georgia Tech, Duke and Boston College back-to-back-to-back.

Young, who finished his career at Deerfield as the school's all-time leading scorer (2,062 points), as well its all-time assists leader, played 39 minutes in the Tigers' last game against B.C. -- the most of his college career -- scoring seven points in the 75-69 loss. In the first meeting against Boston College, Clemson pummelled the Eagles, 72-56, back on Jan. 9.

The loss to the Eagles also marked Young's first career start. He is averaging eight points scored and 24.6 minutes a game this season.

"With the injury to Demontez Stitt and Clemson's current three-game losing streak, (coach Purnell) felt he couldn't afford for Andre to miss practice," said Young's father, Colie, in a text message to The Herald on Thursday. Colie added that his son wasn't going to speak about the situation because Andre was trying to stay focused for Sunday's upcoming game against Maryland and didn't want to dwell on a disappointing issue that was ultimately out of his control.

"Obviously, we (all) are disappointed, but Andre didn't have much of a choice," Colie wrote. "He sends his apologies."

When asked if there was any chance the ceremony could still be held this season or whether it was a lost cause at this point, Colie agreed with Gruhl's sentiments that it would not.

"It seems that way," Young's father added.

Deerfield (19-1) has just three games left in its regular season, including tonight, before opening play in the GISA Region 3-AAA Tournament on Feb. 9 at Georgia Southwestern. After that -- and if Deerfield makes the kind of run many expect in this year's state tournament after the Knights reached back-to-back championship games the last two years -- Deerfield's season could go as late as Feb. 27, which is the date of the AAA state title game.

Clemson, meanwhile, is in the heart of its conference schedule and has nine games left -- all of them ACC contests --with the final regular-season game coming on March 7 against Wake Forest. But then the Tigers open the ACC Tournament four days later on March 11, meaning -- if Clemson fails to make the NCAA Tournament -- the earliest the Tigers' season would end is in mid-March.

"Right now, we're not sure when we're going to be able to do this," Gruhl said. "All we know right now is that it won't be (tonight)."